Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Valuing the Gift

I read a quote from Augustine of Hippo: “It is easy to want things from the Lord and yet not want the Lord Himself, as though the gift could ever be preferable to the Giver.” and it got me thinking...

I'll bet that it is human nature to do this to each other in our relationships as well as spiritually, toward God. I immediately thought of birthdays and Christmas and all our traditions of gift-giving. When we get presents, often our focus is on the present itself and the quality of the gift. I can remember times when I was disappointed with the gift itself, my expectations exceeding my reality. However, I can't really remember a time when I even gave a thought to how I valued the giver. When it came to Christmas stuff, it was usually my parents or family who gave the gifts and there was the unspoken expectation that I would continue to love and value the person who gave the gift, so the relationship was pretty stable and secure. But, thinking about the above quote, I wonder how different my expectations would be if I took the time to think about the one giving the gift and how I do relationship with that person.

I'm at a point in my life where I don't really expect the gifts I receive to be extravagant or surprising. If I want a thing, I generally get it for myself, so all the stuff I really want is only limited by my patience and ability to pay for it. Now that I think about it, though, I am also at a point in my life where I have almost daily reminders of how I value the giver more than the gift when it comes to my kids. Yesterday, Mary Hannah brought home a craft she'd made at school. Technically, I guess it is a trivet, a ceramic hot pad for putting heated dishes on in a kitchen. It is very colorful. Not quite sure how functional it would be, but we'll probably hang on to it for it's artistic value rather than its usefulness (MH says it is an example of radial symmetry, but it looks kinda like a fruit pizza). At any rate, we oohed and aahed about it, not because it is spectacularly wonderful, useful, or beautiful, but because it came from our daughter. Definitely a case of valuing the giver and our relationship over the gift!

So, how do we do with non-tangible gifts that we give each other? For instance, the gift of shared time is one that is often undervalued and closely linked to the value we place on the giver. Early in our marriage, Amelia frequently wanted me to spend downtime in the same room as her. This was difficult because I was obsessed with a particular video game at the time and the computer was in another room. She didn't particularly want to do anything specific, she just wanted us to be together and was unwilling to sit and watch me play my game. Likewise, I was unwilling to sit and watch whatever show she was watching when my guildmates were hosting a raid! I think that situation is an example of how people perceive the gift and the giver differently. Amelia wanted me to give her the gift of shared time, but I was unwilling to do that. I wanted her to give me the gift of time to myself, but I was being selfish about it and devaluing the giver.

So, that gets me thinking about the gift of oneself. Augustine was basically saying that we place the emphasis on WHAT we are getting from God, when the true gift of God is the gift of HIMSELF. Everything that comes from being in relationship with God is just byproduct of the relationship itself. So, what if the corollary is true, that the true gifts we receive from others are just tangible pieces of what they are really offering: themselves, via relationship. There are varying levels of course. I wouldn't expect that someone who offers me a $10 giftcard for my birthday party was looking for a deep and abiding intense relationship. More likely, they are offering a passing mutual regard for each other, and that is okay. However, there are people in my life with whom I need to learn to look at our relationship itself as a gift, a gift that deserves to be valued in the highest place.

Who do you need to thank and appreciate for giving you the gift of themselves? Value both the gift and the giver at once! :)

-jeff

1 comment:

marlis said...

So why is you make me think so much. It hurts my brain after a hard day at work. But it is so worth the outcome. Isn't this why it's so hard to find the perfect gift to give? Because we want it to reflect the relationship? And we worry that our gift is not worthy of the relationship? That it takes forever to find something, but when you come across something that is perfect, money really isn't a big issue? Same with God, His gifts are well thought out and we don't appreciate the little things waiting for the one big ticket item. Actually half the time we don't appreciate those either do we? PS I still have the "diamond" earrings my youngest bought for me in first grade at Northridge, and Frank's rectangular ceramic container. Same as you will have the trivet . They were given with love just as God gives us the little things with the same love as the big things.

But I'm rambling.. love your blog...