Gifts We Don’t Receive


Fury, hurt and disappointment coursed through me like a hot flood as my husband left without opening my gift. I couldn’t believe how easily he aborted what I had so carefully planned. But all too soon I would see the innumerable gifts God had prepared for me — never opened, not received.

The most staggering realization in my walk with God has been this — that I have the ability to keep God’s loving intentions from coming-to-be. The implication for our ability to experience God’s power and presence in our life, the implication for our destiny is hard-hitting and far-reaching . . . not to be taken lightly.

 

For the next few weeks we are going to take a thorough look at the difference between

  • a potential, a possibility (something God wants-to-be) and
  • its realization, or actuality (its becoming a reality in our life)

The time has come for us to grasp the staggering reality that just because God might intend a certain good in our life does not mean that it will come-to-be.

There are gifts we don’t receive.

 

The Anniversary Gift

As the door shut with a firm click behind him, my husband left me standing in our hotel room still holding his gift in my hand, beautifully wrapped and lovingly prepared.  From the moment he had stepped out of the shower that morning, I had eagerly begged him to open it. There was time, but he had refused. It wasn’t part of his plan. He didn’t have a gift for me. He would open it later.

Only as he turned his back on me, walking out the door down the long hotel corridor toward the elevator did I realize that he was actually going to abort the intention I had put into motion weeks before.  Filled with unbearable frustration I kicked the door multiple times in a white-hot fury, hoping he heard; and then I threw the box across the room and myself on our bed.

Oh, yes, he would open the crisp new shirt made of softest Egyptian cotton, finer than any shirt he had ever owned, later that night — but  it would be too late. The shirt was not the gift; it was the physical means of conveying the real gift I wanted him to have.

I had wanted my husband to experience my love, my foresight, my presence and my provision in celebration with him throughout that important day — for it wasn’t just our anniversary, but his first day, his first meeting serving on a national board in his industry. My intention was that all day he would feel like a prince . . .  that as the shirt clung to his shoulders and chest, he would feel me hugging him, proud of him. But he chose to wear the coarse cotton, much-laundered shirt he had brought with him instead. Bill walked away into his day clothed in an inferior shirt that represented his own agenda, his own provision for himself, his need to be in control, and his refusal to heed my plea for a moment of his time because he didn’t think it would make a difference.

As my fury subsided, I felt the sadness of what was lost, what was now never going to be.

Bittersweet, I remembered my secret satisfaction as I had watched Bill pack for this trip, softly swearing as he had studied the cuffs of his shirts hanging in his closet — affectionately referred to as “the rag bag.”  He had been searching for that white shirt whose cotton cuffs were least worn, never suspecting the exquisite shirt that was already purchased and wrapped for him, hidden in my suitcase. 

I’ve learned that the best way to survive any hurt or disappointment is to give it to God, asking Him to show me what it means.  Later that morning, after my shower and quiet time I did this. And it was amazing.

God cast a strong picture into my imagination. It was like I was in a theatre, gazing at a wide expanse of lush drapery hanging from the ceiling to the floor with many folds, and tucked into the folds were all of these wrapped gifts — very much like the gift I had given to Bill.  I knew God was telling me that there were gifts He had prepared for me, just as I had gone to the effort for Bill.  And I knew that He had allowed me to experience this disappointment so that I would understand how He felt when the gifts He tucked into the folds of my day were not received . . . for the same reasons that Bill had not received mine.

This brought me to a stunning moment of humility and sorrow as I cried out to Him to make me different, to change this in me, so that I would no longer miss the gifts that can only be received in His timing with their symbolic meaning intact . . . so that He can make His presence known, so that He can speak tenderly into my heart, sharing with me the meaning of each day and the events taking place in my life.

Bill was a picture to me of myself, of us all — a picture of how all too often we do not consent to grace, slighting His invitation, putting Him off until later, too blind to recognize the opportunity, too busy to be bothered, having too little respect for what He wants to do and be for us.

 

Feeling guilty is not the goal, wanting to be changed is. 

Repentance is seeing the truth so clearly that you ache to be different.

The great news is God begins to work that change,

the moment we begin to ache for it.

 

Liberated, hungry and wanting to celebrate, I called room service, asking them to bring me lunch. It arrived on a table draped in linens, with silver covers over each plate and a small silver vase of flowers.  Absorbed by delight, I sat there looking at the table not wanting to break the precious moment.  And then I noticed the flowers: yellow and white marguerite daisies with blue bachelor buttons . . . the exact same flowers I had carried down the aisle on my wedding day years before.

I’ve enjoyed room service many times since, with many small vases of flowers . . .  but only marguerite daisies and bachelor buttons that once.

Those flowers were His gift celebrating the meaning of that day with me. . . not just my anniversary, but the first day of a much tighter relationship between God and me.   The timing and symbol of those specific flowers arriving as they did was His way of telling me that He remembered the flowers I had carried down the aisle as a bride all those years before. He was telling me that He had been there, even though He had not been an invited guest — as I did not know Him, nor did I belong to Him then.  But He had been there with me then, as He was present with me now.

Late that afternoon when Bill came back to our room, I told him the entire story and asked if he had sent the flowers.

Hugging me and holding me, he burrowed his face in the nape of my neck whispering, “No, Baby.  I wish I had thought of it, but I didn’t.”

I leaned into my husband smiling . . . so glad that he hadn’t . . . far more satisfied that my Lord had.

* * *

Is it possible that we unwittingly prevent ourselves from receiving what God wants to give us? 

I felt like this was the message God was giving me [1]; but no lesson is complete, no principle is certain without rock-solid confirmation in Scripture.  And so He showed me where it was.

 

Scripture provides hard proof that

what God means-to-be does not necessarily come-to-be.

We know that God sent Moses to Egypt to bring His people out and lead them into The Promised Land.  We also know that the first generation was not able to enter into what God had prepared for them. The question remains, did God intend to take that first generation into the Promised Land?  Was it meant-to-be? Or from the beginning were they doomed by His arbitrary decision to serve as an illustration of unbelief, wandering the wilderness until all but two of their generation died off?

Then the LORD spoke to Moses saying, “Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel…”   Num 13:1-2

The LORD is telling Moses His intention.  But did He intend to give the land of Canaan to THAT generation of the sons of Israel?  Was there ever any real possibility of THAT generation receiving it? Or had the LORD already decided that it was to be given to their children instead?

Is everything already “fixed”?  Is what is meant-to-be, going-to-be, no matter how we respond to God’s gift?

The answer to this question is crucial, the implications are staggering.  Was there   or    was there not   any real potential for THAT generation which came out of Egypt to enter the Promised Land?

 

Those of us who have read the story know that when the Lord commanded them to go and take the land, Israel balked.  Israel was unwilling to go up, because they believed the obstacles were too great.  They muttered and complained and accused God of bringing them to this point only to destroy them.  They epitomized those who are NOT in agreement with God, NOT in partnership with Him, NOT trusting His goodness, NOT believing Him, UNWILLING to collaborate with Him, UNABLE to value the gift.   Therefore, they were not able to receive it.

The possibility of their entering into the Promised Land was lost. But was it ever possible? Or were they always and only meant-to-be an eternal demonstration of unbelief?

 

Scripture tells us THAT AT ONE POINT IN TIME the potential of God’s gift WAS VALID and REAL and POSSIBLE . . . before it was lost.

By God’s own word, He had wanted to give them this gift, but now it would not be.

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron… tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the LORD, I will do to you the very things I heard you say… Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.    

Num 14:26, 28, 30

 

God had sworn with uplifted hand to make the Promised Land their home… Could He express His intent with any stronger language than this?  “Not one of you (first generation) will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb…and Joshua.”

The staggering reality is that it was God’s intention for that first generation to receive The Promised Land , but their unbelief aborted what was meant-to-be.

God knew before He ever sent Moses to bring them out of Egypt, that they would not believe Him, that they would not make it in. But what He saw outside of time did not limit the potential of the promise He made inside of time.  No word He speaks, no promise He makes is empty or futile. They are gifts being extended in His fervent desire to create a bond with us.

 

The gift, as with Bill’s shirt, is not the material thing He gives us — the material thing serves as a means only, a means to convey the real gift — which is our realization of His Presence with us.  

Our realization of God’s Presence with us is not a spiritual luxury, meant-to-be the privilege of the few.  It carries God’s transforming power that makes every situation — no matter how dire or painful — not only bearable but victorious.

When I saw those unopened gifts in the folds of my days, when I realized that He had brought me the flowers from my bridal bouquet — what happened to my being?  Was I still hurt and angry, or was I softened with humility, and transformed with wonder that swallowed my pettiness?  Did I feel like a victim? Or was I overwhelmed with God’s goodness? There is real power in God’s realized Presence — a power that every one of us needs to get from where we are to where we are meant-to-be. 

The staggering realization that we can hinder, that we have hindered God’s loving intention to make His Presence known to us is a huge gift in itself.  It brings us lightyears closer to knowing His reality.

In weeks to come we will talk about what this means in terms of His being in control and His sovereignty — and we will learn that He maintains both.

We are being caught up into an amazing sifting process, with all things working together to create a final picture in which the countless iterations of our responses to God’s loving initiatives will create an eternal, infallible illustration of His goodness and justice to all.

And we will see in coming weeks that our ability to receive the gift of what He means-to-be does not depend on anything that we do, but on what we allow Him  to do in us.

 

[1] “Has the voice of God come to you directly? If it has, you cannot mistake the intimate insistence with which it has spoken to you in the language you know best, not through your ears, but through your circumstances.”  (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, Jan 29)

 

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