Tuesday, December 11, 2012

An Observation (viii)

I am guest-posting on my own blog. I'm like that.

I am writing Adventy things on my personal blog that aren't so much Occupied. But a recent post about giving has stayed with me, and feels like a follow-up on my my last post here about Giving What We Have To Give. So I'm pasting in here too.

This is a bit related to a post I wrote last year about giving to people, not causes, so if this is a theme that you're thinking on, you may find it helpful to revisit that one too. The part I want my heart to remember in all of this is that Living Occupied isn't about spending my money in different ways that are "better" - it's about spending my life in way that is freedom-giving and life-making and that leaves the money question way far behind in like, millionth place.  Money-first decisions, about giving at Christmas or giving to charities - those decisions are going to be bad, heart-hurting decisions.  Life/Love-first decisions... those ones are the ones that will change this world and this heart.

This post is unapologetically Jesus-y (again) since of course, I'm all Jesus-y and all, but should Jesus really be a tripping point for you, well, maybe you'll still hear Good News in the middle of all this?

And so, a heart-first plea, In Defense of Giving:

Good (edit out bad word) am I tired of presents becoming either The Most Important Thing or The Most Awful Thing.  Either we're being asked to buy presents (new unwrapped toys only please) for the poor in our first world nation, or we're being told to give up buying gifts altogether and instead just buy chickens and cows for the nameless poor we've never met but for whom we should be feeling badly for the next few weeks. 

I am UP IN ARMS I tell you! Up. In. Arms.

Somehow we have forgotten what the point of it all is - it is not about the Gifts!! It is about the Giver! We give to each other to do our best imitation of the Great Giver, the First Giver, the Only Giver Who Gives Well. We do it to remember how hard it is to get it right, to remember how hard it is do it with a warm, generous heart, to remember how much pleasure there is when we do find a way to get it a little right and give warmly and generously. 

We give to our children so that they will learn how to receive.  We coach them to look for the love that the gift is given from - that's why all kids in all time have learned to say thank you for even the ugly hand-made sweater from whoever finds the time to knit one! Because we are being thankful that someone, SOMEONE!!! someone loves us enough to try to bring us delight. 

If we decide our children have enough stuff and instead ask them to give up receiving and instead be glad to give to the nameless poor a million miles away, we teach them not generosity, but pity.  We teach them that their own needs are silly and unimportant, compared to the REAL need  somewhere out there that they've not yet seen.  Does God ever do that? Does God ever say, "You, you well-off okay person who is sad and lonely - there is someone sadder and lonelier so I'll be giving my best stuff to them and probably you should stop your boohooing and give to them too."  Nope. God doesn't.  Not one time does Jesus say to someone who stopped him for help, "You? you've already got enough! I'm saving my miracles for someone who needs it more."  Not one time. 

Because it turns out we all need.  The reason why it is so hard for a rich person to get into the Kingdom of Heaven is because it is so hard for them to see that they need anything at all.  But in fact, as anyone who has ever not found what they were waiting for under the tree knows, we all want something.  We all need something.  And our need for whatever that thing is infinite and bottomless and the source of all pain. A need not to be filled in this life. A need Jesus sees in each of us.

So, I get it. That's kind of deep and not so helpful at Christmas:  your kid doesn't need anything.  They have more than enough toys. More than enough books and clothes and sports equipment.  But your kid does need to know that they are noticed. That they are known. That what feels important to them is seen and cared about by the people they are longing to be seen by.  

Now the trouble is that in our world, all the focus has landed on The Gift and I join in with all I have to say nope, that's not it.  My children will not receive The Best Gift Ever from me. Nor will they be overwhelmed by the Too Much I Can't Focus under a magically lit tree when they wake up in the morning.  But they will receive a few small things that we can afford that tell them that we've noticed them and care about the things they love and enjoy. We will point out the love that is behind each gift received from aunts and uncles and grandparents.  And we will celebrate the wonder of being worthy of all that love.

And through all of this Advent that brings us to that morning, I'll be saying over and over, Jesus is the Gift that we're really waiting for.  Every time.  No gift will be the right one the way Jesus is the Right One. But all this anticipation and excitement? That's meant to remind us of how we should feel about the gift God has given in the giving of His Only Begotten Son.   

So give your children gifts, small modest ones that are a joy to receive and that do not demand being a source of eternal fulfillment.  Help your children give what they have to give to the people they've been asked to love.

And then relax. Please, just relax. It's meant to be good news. Good News.