Anticipation and Expectation

Anticipation and Expectation

Nov 27
Anticipation and Expectation

Some of my happiest memories from growing up revolve around Christmas.  I was fortunate enough to get three Christmases:  Christmas Eve was spent with my paternal grandparents, Christmas morning was at home (and Santa came!), Christmas afternoon was spent with my maternal grandparents.  As I look back and reflect on them, I realize that each event had a different feel to it.  I loved each of them, but for different reasons.  I liked the food and the laughter better on Christmas with my mom’s family.  I liked the candy the most on Christmas morning.  I liked the gifts better on Christmas Eve.

To this day, I still hang a stocking at my fireplace, hoping that someone will put some sweet treats in it.

Over the many years of receiving gifts, I came to learn something about the gift givers themselves.  And as I learned about the givers, it changed how I looked at the gifts.  For example, I was never excited about a gift from my grandmother.  I knew a gift from my grandfather would be expensive and I would like it, but he would be just as surprised by it as I was.

The gifts that always got me the most excited were from my mother or my siblings.  These were gifts that I could rarely figure out what they were, but I knew I would love them.  They always managed to find something that I would love and that often I didn’t even know existed.  I never had to give them a list or make suggestions about what to get me – they knew me.  Every year, I was excited to receive any gift that had any of their names on it.  I knew that gift would be great, because I knew the person who was giving it to me.

I have recently come to understand the same should be true of how we see gifts from God.  It usually isn’t how we see it, but it should be.   We know there will be “blessings” from God, but we don’t know what it is.  In the absence of that knowledge, without knowing what it is, what are we to believe?

Who knows us better than God?  Who knows what we like better than God?  Who is more loving than God?  Who is more generous than God?  There is no better Giver.

And yet many of us, myself included, don’t get excited about His gifts.

If God’s gift was a wrapped present, visible and waiting under the Christmas tree, we would pick it up and feel its weight.  We would shake it and listen for tell-tale sounds.  We would examine the size and shape of the box to determine what might fit inside.  We would think about recent prayers, about recent troubles, and we would begin guessing at what might or might not be in the box.  If the box is too small, or too light, or doesn’t make the right sounds then we conclude that God isn’t giving us what we want or need.

We sometimes view God’s gifts the way I looked at Grandma’s gifts – something that we could use and would be good for us, but not anything that will get us excited and shout for joy.  We find ourselves trying to muster up gratitude for getting anything at all, despite our belief that the gift will be underwhelming.

Do you see God as someone who would give you socks or a nice sweater, not as someone who gives the best gifts?  Do you see God as someone who gives you gifts not because He loves you and is excited for you to receive His loving gift, but because He is obligated?  Do you see God as someone who only shops based on your wish list and who will then look for the least expensive thing on the list?  Do you see God as someone who cannot be bothered to look for the perfect gift?

There have been many Christmases where Grandma gave everyone the same thing.  Once one person opened their gift, everyone else knew what they were getting – the packages were all identical.  I think we sometimes view God’s gifts the same way – He made the sun to rise, He gave me breakfast, He gave me a safe commute to work… just like He did for everyone else.

Leaving us to wonder if God even notices us as individuals.  Are there any gifts that God has planned specifically for me, that are different than His gifts to everyone else?  Can I really believe that God is thinking of me and lovingly and thoughtfully preparing a gift for me?

I suppose there are two ways to look at it:  either what we believe about the gift reveals something about the giver, or what we believe about the giver reveals something about the gift.

I suspect that a lot of us get so caught up in the appearance of the gift, in whether or not we are getting what we want, in what we think it might be or might not be, that we forget the Giver.  In other words, we anticipate the gift more than we anticipate the Giver.  We get so focused on figuring out what we might be getting that don’t even think about Who is doing the giving.

My nephew had a birthday in October.  I bought his gift in February.  I held on to it, waiting to give it to him, for months.  I even told him that I had his present purchased, that he would never guess what it was, and that he would love it.  Every time he saw me he wanted to make guesses.  He never even got close.  It was something he didn’t know existed, making it impossible for him to ever guess it or even hope for it.  Yet when he opened it, he loved it.  The last time I saw him, he told me how grateful he was for it and how much he was still enjoying it.

This was because I know him and I love him.  I want good things for him and I want him to have things that will bring him joy.  My gift was something he didn’t know was possible, that he never could have guessed with a million guesses.  And it brought him joy.

In contrast, all my nephew can talk about getting for Christmas is the latest gaming console.  He asks everyone if they will get it for him, or if they’ve already got it.  He wants to know it’s coming and he doesn’t care who it comes from.  I’m pretty sure he isn’t going to get it.  Worse, I’m concerned that his focus on getting that specific gift is going to prevent him from being joyful about what he does receive.  Every gift will be a disappointment because it wasn’t what he’s expecting.

To put it another way, every gift will have been lovingly and thoughtfully obtained specifically for him, but he will fail to take joy in them because of his expectation.  Placing his hopes on a specific gift is going to steal not only his joy, but the joy of the people who are giving to him.  People who love and adore him are going to be hurt by his disappointment in their gifts, because he didn’t get the one thing he wanted.

Right now, what he wants is more important to him than who loves him.  He won’t be able to see the love of the givers because of his focus on the gifts.

Let’s not do the same thing to God.  He is a perfect giver.  We don’t need to guess what He is doing or what He is giving – it will be good!  And not in a “thanks for getting me this good pair of socks” way.  It will be in a “I never would have dreamed of something this good” way!

We’ll miss it if we get too fixated on the one thing we wanted that we didn’t get.

My experience has been that I’ve always gotten what I wanted, just rarely in the way I expected to get it.  God is infinitely inventive and imaginative.  I adore that about Him.  There are still times when I try to anticipate His gifts, or I try to give Him specific instructions on what to give, but I’m learning that He is a far better Giver than I had ever imagined.

On my best days, I even remember that HE is the gift I want more than anything.

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