The Greater Gift

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A few weeks ago, I was reminded of an anecdote about a father and son that I heard during a chapel service years ago. In the story, the father bought a blue, Schwinn bicycle for his son’s upcoming birthday, which he hid away in their barn. He then proceeded to ask his son what he would like for his birthday the following morning over breakfast. The son wasn’t sure, so the father suggested how nice it would be if his son had a bike to ride along the dirt roads and explore more of their farmland.

A few days later, as the son began to want a bike, the father commented on how neat it would be for him to have a blue bike—his favorite color. A few days later, the father talked about what a good, reliable brand the Schwinn bikes were, and how amazing it would be if his son could have a blue, Schwinn bicycle. Soon, all the son could think about was owning such a bike.

The day of the boy’s birthday arrived, and when the father finally pulled the blue, Schwinn bicycle out of the barn, the son was ecstatic. The father had succeeded in giving his son a desire to own such a bike, and then he fulfilled that desire by giving him the gift that he had already set aside for him before the son had ever dreamed about owning such a gift.

The chapel speaker that day went on to explain how God does the same thing for us as the father in the story did for his son. When we delight in Him, He gives us the desires of our heart (He places desires within us), and then He gives us the desires of our heart (He fulfills those desires). Psalm 37 states it best:

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desire of your heart.”

Psalm 37:4

Ironically, as encouraging as the chapel service was that day, I walked around the campus the next few days feeling pensive as I fought back tears. That simple story shared in chapel had penetrated a tender area of my heart that I had boxed up and packed away years ago, and now I was forced to face its fragile contents and to recognize that perhaps I had wrongly stored them away. Could it be that God had really placed the things that I desired in my heart? And if so, how and when would He fulfill them? Did He really have good gifts already set aside for me?

The idea that any of this could be true was like a soothing balm to my tattered heart, yet I found fear competing for my thoughts regarding all of this. Nonetheless, I knew that fear must not win.

I ultimately asked God to help me unpack the dusty box of desires that had been sitting in the attic of my heart for all these years. I needed Him to help me sort through each item. I needed to know which desires had been given to me by Him so that I could display them in my mind as a masterpiece—a painted picture of a promise that would someday come true. Each God-given desire might not come to pass when I expected it to, and it might not even look like what I had imagined, but one thing was for certain—if God had placed a desire in my heart, then He would fulfill that desire in His timing and in His way. After all,

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”

Numbers 23:19

Thinking of the story recently from chapel made me recall another story I heard many years ago at a campus meeting. The speaker that evening shared about a little girl whose father owned a silver dollar. He often times would take it out of his pocket in the evening to admire its shine, and his own daughter’s fondness for the coin grew each time he did. Soon, she was asking her father for a silver dollar of her own.

This man worked a humble job, so he knew he couldn’t afford to buy such a gift for his daughter. He knew how much his little girl wanted a similar coin, however, so he decided to make her a deal one evening. If she could grab the coin out of his clenched fist, it would be hers.

The little girl excitedly jumped into her daddy’s lap at the offer, giggling and bantering with him as she tried to wrestle the coin away. Twenty minutes later, however, her enthusiasm waned as the object remained in his hand. Just as she was ready to retreat to her room in disappointment, he opened his hand and willingly offered her the gift, much to her surprise and glee. As she took the silver dollar, she thanked him with a kiss on his cheek, then she hopped off his lap, giggling as she skipped to her bedroom to further admire her new treasure.

Much like the chapel speaker, the campus speaker related this father to God. The truth is, the girl’s dad didn’t have to keep the coin from her for a time since he knew he’d offer it to her anyway. Nonetheless, he withheld it momentarily because he loved how her desire for the coin drew her closer to him.

Perhaps it is no different with God. Any desire God has given us will be fulfilled in due time. But as we wait, our heavenly Father is offering us a greater gift. He is developing a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him as we cry out to Him from the depths of our yearning hearts. He is drawing us to Him as we wrestle with these unfulfilled longings, teaching us to trust Him in the waiting and producing patience, perseverance, and hope within us, which alone are good gifts from the Lord.

As we yearn for any unmet desire, let’s ask God to help us desire Him most. Let’s ask Him to help us see the good gift He is offering us now—a deeper sense of His presence in our lives. Furthermore, let’s especially remember how this was made possible this Christmas season—because Jesus came to the earth as a baby so that He could ultimately die for our sins. He is the best gift that we could ever receive, so let’s celebrate Him and trust Him with all other longings.

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear Desire of ev’ry nation,
joy of ev’ry longing heart.
Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus by Charles Wesley

To Such Belongs the Kingdom

We had an infestation of caterpillars in our neighborhood a little over a month ago, and although I was somewhat disgusted by it, I also found joy in watching my toddler son enjoy them so much.

“Pet, pet, pet. I pet a cata-pil-wer,” he would tell me after bending down to stroke each one with his index finger. He was oblivious to their attacks and attempts to get away, despite my best efforts to make him understand. In his mind, he was showing them some much needed affection, and he contentedly smiled to himself as he continued to bestow kindness upon them.

I’m glad that walking is no longer my main form of exercise. Liam is much too fascinated by nature to take things at a brisk pace. He wants to explore and enjoy creation, and he’s teaching me to slow down and look at life with the same wonder and fascination that has captured him.

Moments like these make me think about Jesus’ own interactions with children and His words to the disciples about them.

Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Luke 18:16-17

Liam has yet to place his faith in Jesus or to even understand the gospel, for that matter, but I find myself learning more about what it means to be childlike in my faith because of him. He is showing me how to recognize and enjoy the small pleasures of life that God gives us. The simplest of moments hold so much adventure and delight for him, and he doesn’t take any of it for granted.

Often times, I wake up feeling steeped in the sorrows of this world. There are countless tragedies taking place nowadays, and it is all too easy to hear about them and feel burdened by them. These things weigh me down and have me walking through life in a fog at times, not fully aware of the beauty that surrounds me and the way that God lavishly pours down His love upon me through the simple gifts of each day. But seeing Liam enjoy these thoughtful gestures so freely helps me to recognize that God’s goodness abounds. There is still so much to enjoy here on earth. God abundantly blesses us with good gifts each day, and Liam is making me a little more aware of them through our excursions and other ordinary life moments, for which I’m grateful.

Liam is also making me more aware of my need to be less concerned about my own comfort and convenience in life. If there is a great adventure to be had, Liam is ready to enter into it, despite the discomfort he might experience in the end.

Weeks ago, he walked home with me in wet pants and shoes due to jumping in some puddles near our home, and it reminded me of how excited I was to jump in puddles as a little girl. I’m not encouraging any of us to jump in puddles or play in the mud as adults per se, but watching him have so much fun made me wonder if I am truly willing to enter into all of the adventures that God has in store for me, regardless of how messy they might be.

My son is still very young, so I can only imagine the other lessons and insights that God will give me through him as he grows. And of course, he has much to learn from me and others also, but I’m so appreciative to God for the ways in which He is growing me spiritually through my son. He delights to teach us and help us grow in whatever position or role in which we find ourselves, and I find that to be a special blessing in this season of mothering a small child.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 18:1-4