Monday, December 5, 2011

"Surprise Me"

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  1 John 3:1a

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:9-12

December is the stuff of memories.  Somehow, for a time, the world and all of its complicated bigness seem to shrink into the simple things.  And, for a brief moment, if we are watchful, we can view life through our children’s eyes.

We may not realize it, but we need our children to remind us how we used to “see”.  The things of this world have lost their appeal for many grown-ups.  It takes a lot to get us excited and create a sense of wonder in us.  We may consider this new “adult” way of seeing wise.  But, have we lost the ability to see God in the process?  Have we lost our ability to trust and to be free, to worship and to hope?    

I have decided that children have the right idea.  Jesus thought so, too.  He told us to be like them!  You know, some things in this world hint at what is to come.  If we haven’t become completely hardened by our pain and our disappointments, experiences here can be seen as a foretaste of the good God has planned.  “Seeing” like our children could actually be good for us.  And, the Christmas season gives us an open door to their world.

I don’t know how, but God has been gracious to let us preserve the magic of Christmas for our children another year.  Even though our girls are 8 and almost 10, they still live deep within the free world of the imagination.  Where Santa is real.  Where their shelf elf—who Mary Claire stated today is “so cute, he looks just like a toy”—is so much more than a toy!  The place where “Ernie” the Elf is a magical creature who lives at our house for the month, traveling at night from place to place, eating popcorn, and leaving notes that answer questions about the North Pole and its mysteries.  My girls transport me, too, if for a short time, to that place.  And, when Bryan and I are up late at night typing notes to our children from their elf, we are children, too.  Won’t heaven hold that kind of joy? 

Perhaps my favorite aspect of this magical stage of my children’s development is their total trust in good coming their way.  They have been so consistently blessed that they now expect good.  I tell you, for a mother who has had to break the news of a sibling’s death to her children, this is a tremendous relief!  Despite their pain and loss, by God’s grace, my daughters still expect good things to happen to them. 
Last week, they compiled their Christmas wish lists.  Call it a greedy exercise if you want, but I saw it differently.  I witnessed two little people who displayed complete confidence that they will receive what they ask for.  I think that is beautiful.  And, this year, I saw a new addition on my oldest daughter’s list.  She took less than a page to write a few of her big wishes, but the last line of her list read: “Surprise me.” 

I was sitting next to her when she wrote it down.  I questioned her.  “You really want to be surprised this year?”  With a twinkle in her eye, she smiled at me and said, “Yeah, surprise me.”
I have thought about Caroline’s bottom line a lot since then.  Really, it takes maturity to leave the outcome to chance.  Maybe she has learned by now that things are not really left to chance.  Maybe she knows instead that she can trust the giver.  Maybe she has learned that it is fun to receive things from his heart.

In this case, when we mention the “giver”, we are talking about Santa.  But, you and I know who Santa is.  And, believe me, “Santa’s” heart toward Caroline is good!  Santa knows Caroline really well.  And, Santa can usually come up with things that will delight her, appeal to her natural interests, spark her imagination, and speak to her personally.  Santa knows a little about what the next year will hold, too, and he gives accordingly. 

Now, some people would say that we have deceived our children and contradicted our teachings about God by preserving this myth for so long, but I assert that when they find out Santa’s real identity, they will know this underlying truth: Their parents have loved them with a personal, passionate love and have delighted in giving them good gifts.  Isn’t this the heart of our Father God?
If this is God’s heart towards us, I have to ask myself a few questions.  Do I abandon myself so completely to His surprises?  Or, am I so burned by the world that I no longer expect good?  I wonder…do I trust the Giver the way Caroline does?  Do I give Him a long, long list of my wishes?  Or, do I ask Him to give me what He knows I will like?  What He knows I will need?  Have I discovered how much FUN it is to receive things from His heart?

I am challenging myself to make a new list this year.  Oh, I’ve got some wishes.  There are some things I want.  God knows what they are.  And, I am not afraid to beg Him for things!  Insist on them because I know they are also the desires of His heart!  But, at the end of the day, I want to “see” through the lens of a child.  I don’t want to miss the foretastes of Heaven because of self-protection under the guise of grown-up wisdom (which is really just cynicism).  I want to worship the God who has already won the victory and lives so that I may have abundant life.

God is my loving Daddy.  He is the best giver ever!  He knows what I want.  He knows what I need.  It is fun to receive things from His heart.

On this year’s list, my bottom line reads: “Surprise me.”
Heavenly Father, you know where my heart has been wounded.  I am not so unlike others in this world.  We have witnessed some scary things, experienced some loss, seen dreams die, and lived long and hard in a world with sin and death.  We confess that we don’t feel all that free.  We have put away childish things and along with them the hope of your redemption.  We can no longer reasonably expect good.  We don’t know how to experience joy fully.  We cannot understand how to trust you because we have been hurt.  In short, we are battle-weary.  BUT, something in us stirs us to seek you still!  We know there is more!  Help us to see the “magic” all around us and trust you to give us good gifts this Christmas, throughout the year, and until we see you face to face.