Your presence is the best present
We are now in the throes of the holiday season. In fact, due to an early Thanksgiving, we get an extra week and weekend to revel this year (and to shop).
I have a “love-hate relationship” with this time of year. I love the festivities. I love the meaning of Christmas. I love the opportunity to celebrate with friends. Most of all, I love time with my kids.
I also hate this time of year. I hate the overwrought commercialization (even as I unsparingly participate in Black Friday and Cyber Monday). I hate the political correctness that has removed faith from Christmas. Most of all, I hate myself for creating unattainable expectations.
The exhilaration of anticipation and the sorrow of unmet longings epitomizes most aspects of life but is particularly poignant as we wend our way through the holidays. This is driven by desire, our craving for things we don’t have and often don’t need.
My mother used to say, “It’s OK to want.” The clear message was that there was not a causal linkage between wanting and getting. Desiring something was fine, expecting to receive it was an entirely different matter indeed.
That tale has gotten lost, overcome by a manipulative marketing apparatus that makes us believe that we should demand that our wishes be fulfilled regardless of whether we can afford them or whether we deserve it. Overwhelmingly, it is this desire to acquire some “thing,” that drives our passions.
Yet in our hearts we know that we can’t always get what we want. Many times, it is due to our own folly-expecting too much. Even when we are more realistic in our desires, life seems to conspire against the acquisition of even the simplest demands. It just was not part of God’s plan for us.
I have been as guilty as anyone of inflated expectations, but these have become mitigated over time. The rampant excesses of youth have been tempered by a life battered by sometimes brutal reality and not infrequent self-inflicted injuries. It has also become grounded in the knowledge that what I receive (and honestly, I have received many blessings) is part of God’s plan and no amount of coveting will change that outcome.
Perhaps my perspective today is based on the fact that I want for nothing. I acquire stuff I don’t need. My wife has playfully chastised me for my Merrill boot addiction (I have even bought the same pair again, because I didn’t remember I already had them.) Truly, there is no material “anything” that is critical for my survival or even comfort. I just don’t need any more stuff.
However, there is something I still desire more than anything. It is to be able to spend time with the people I love. “Time” is the currency of this desire, not money. This is particularly true of my children. Our visits are less frequent than I would want, but I cherish every moment of the time I do get with them. It is not a gift I wish to force them to give, rather it is a pleasure based on something freely given. My heart’s deepest desire is that they would want to be with me. I know this is selfish, but I will take whatever they can spare.
One of my colleagues jokingly said that he was going to put a bow around his neck and lie under the tree, so his family would know what a gift he was. How true. It is the people in our lives and the experiences we share that give us meaning. Sometimes, it is the simple act of showing up that matters. Why else would we visit a friend in a hospital or attend some distant relative’s funeral. It is to demonstrate we care enough about another person to give them something we cannot purchase more of…our time. It is a great sacrifice and the ultimate present.
So, in this season of giving, in this time of grace, grace your friends and family with the gift of you. Go to them. Don’t just show up, be present in their lives. It matters.
Your presence is their best present.