Saturday, December 03, 2005
I was reading the morning paper and the guy was writing a piece about Christmas gifts and rueing the time he got a monogrammed butterknife, saying What do you say when you get a butterknife?
Plenty. For starters, you turn and look into the person's eyes who gave to you and say, Thank You. The guy goes on to elaborate on real gifts, the gifts of the scriptures, unconditional love, forgiveness, peace, and hope. A pretty typical take for a religion columnist on a Saturday morning, second week of advent. But I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the piece was well-written, despite the superficial remarks on the age-old commentary on gift-giving/commercialization of Christmas.
I think this guy misses a really big point that many people miss. I'm thinking of Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher, who spoke to the Will and Grace of a perfect relationship with God. Buber says that you must have the will, or really want, to be with God in all things; but he also says that once you have a relationship, you must have the grace to receive and to live with it each day. It's the grace that can remain the elusive ingredient of a peace-filled, hope-filled life laced with forgiveness and unconditional love.
It's my observation and my experience that we want people to love us how we want them to love us. That can mean that perfect Christmas gift that delights a heart tied up in one hobby or another, one interest or another, one preference or another. That can mean that person always doing and saying the very thing that meets our needs perfectly at the moment. That can mean that person always being emotionally available to us as we muddle through. We want what we need and what makes sense of our world.
People on the other hand, love us the way they see fit or the way they can. "What she needs is a good pair of winter boots. Here's some with pink laces. I'll get her those." "I am too busy and frankly, too important, to be fooling around with an airport pickup; she can get her own self to town and when she comes, that way I'll be ready to see her." "I will be home when the party is over but I don't really know when." People don't mean any harm. People don't intend to punish with their love or their gifts. And when we respond with "What do you say when you get a monogrammed butterknife?" we short sheet ourselves. That perfect walk with God and his people has slipped through our fingers again. You gotta want it and once you get it, you gotta live it.
You must embrace the love you receive with grace and gladness and return the love with joy, letting the consolation of a relationship settle about you like a luxurious cashmere shawl of untold comfort. The monogrammed butterknife is a good thing for us all: life isn't just how we see it or how we want it. The world will not bend to that strong will of ours and our precise take on things every time. When people give gifts or share their gifts with us, it's a sacred moment and should always be met with the holiest, humblest of replies. Thank you. This is just wonderful.
Because it really is!
The 'Kam EWA