The Christmas gift return drives me insane. They irk me. They drive me nuts. (I feel better for getting that out there). There is the occasional needing of a new size or an item needs to be returned because it was damaged. I get that. However I cannot imagine that the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on returns the day after Christmas are all wrong-sized or damaged goods. Nope, the number one reason people return gifts is they wanted something different. When was the last time you gave a gift and not had to find out before hand if the gift was “ok” or “preapproved”? Are we that narcissistic, that self-involved that even our gift giving has to be tailored perfectly? The answer is yes.
What is really lost is not the art of gift-giving but rather the art of gift-receiving. What is lost is the humility and grace and appreciation that someone has thought enough about you that they have invested their time, emotion, and money into a gift. We have lost the fact that we are valued in their lives to the point where a gift of their choosing is an expression of the value of that relationship. This is why the personalized gift, the one that really requires something from the gift giver is being lost. The best gifts cost us something. They require us to think about the person and their likes and needs. They require us to give a piece of us away, a true investment. I love to give packages of beef jerky away. I cut the steak. I marinate it. I dehydrate it. Nearly everyone who has received my gift loves it. They love it (I hope) because they know I have invested into it. Think about that, especially the next time you reach for a gift card.
I can’t help but think, though, that the way we receive gifts today is quite representative of our spiritual state. I really don’t know that many people who are not demanding God give His gifts in ways that are pleasing to us. He gave us Jesus, his only son and yet here we are trying to define Jesus the way we want him to be. Jesus the “My God of the Vending Machine” (put a prayer in…get out what you want), or the “Cash Machine God” (I waste all my money but I want you to give me more), or the “Sex Machine God” (give me someone to fulfill my needs without any investment or commitment on my part). We have turned God’s greatest gift into nothing more than an impersonal gift card exchange. Are we losing the ability to fully accept and receive His gift?
I invite you this season to be a better gift receiver. Accept your gifts with understanding and appreciation. Loosen the demands on the gift giver and I think you will be amazed at how rich this season will be. Know that the best gift you can receive is your savior. Accept Him for who He is and know that the gift you have been given, the gift that we celebrate at Christmas, is the best kind of gift because it really cost someone to give it!
You are familiar with William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, right? Educated boys from “good” homes are marooned on an island and struggle to survive. There are no adults in their space to guide their decision making, raising this critical question about human nature, “In a place and time without rules and guidance, would you descend into the abyss of human depravity (the beast in the story) or would you rise to elevate the value of human life in the midst of trial?”
What makes this book so fascinating are the characters and the moral dilemmas they encounter. They are all schoolboys. They vary in age but by any measure they are children…kids. They are trying to survive on an island isolated from the rest of the world. They try to figure out what really matters in life and how best to do life. Many of the characters wrestle with how far they would go as they shape a “new” morality. When I first read the book I remember barely being able to finish the book because of the inevitable outcome.
As I keep tabs on headlines locally and nationally, I can’t help but think we are raising a “Lord of the Flies” generation. With far-too-great regularity we are reading headlines about children (kids) who are left to their own devices on the internet; a virtual island without adults and we are seeing and living through the projected “Lord of the Flies” outcome. Children are dying because of other children living out their lives without any adults to be found on the island.
I can’t help but think of Cain and Abel; one who takes the high road and one who takes the low road…no parents in sight.
Out of no where the adults show up in the Lord of the Flies to stave off the inevitable. Those who take the low road have to confront the depravity they embraced. I imagine the two young girls (ages 12 and 14) in Florida are experiencing a similar reality. They are going to pay a heavy price for their alleged choices (role) in another child’s death. Cain paid a heavy price for his depravity and so too will all of those kids on the internet who embrace the beast inside each of us. What will it take for parents to get on the internet island with their kids to save them from the depraved masses? When are the adults going to show up to save the kids who have taken the high road? The reality is we are living in a time when more and more parents really don’t care (they say they do, but their actions don’t correlate with their words) about
their kids and have turned them over to the internet, a cyberspace island. How close does the disaster have to be before you involve yourself in your child’s internet island?
If you have children in your home who spend time on any social sites, can I encourage you to take an ACTIVE role there? Don’t let one more child suffer needlessly because “I thought they were a good kid.”
“Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law. Roger was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins.”
William Golding, Lord of the Flies