Of Gifts and Grace and Immeasurably More

My good Father, Giver of good gifts, pours out grace lavishly—covers me with this richness so that there is nothing left of the mess I’ve made of myself, so that all there is to see is grace. His gifts fall generously from His good heart, there for the taking, if I will just open my hands.

But I don’t.

I am a little child, fists clenched tight, fighting against the goodness of the Lord and refusing all His gifts, because they do not meet my expectations.

I am beginning to think that expectations are the enemy of my walk with God, as much as fear or doubt or even sin. What do I expect? I expect my way, my time, my plans. I expect that when Scripture promises that my prayers will be answered, that God will answer my prayers my way, according to my timetable, in alignment with my plans. And then, when He fails to meet my expectations, I am angry, petulant, and temperamental.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We’re teaching this verse to the children at church right now, and I have found these old familiar words rattling around in my head, and showing me a depth of their truth that I hadn’t understood before.

Daily I fall short. If God’s glory is the distance from the coast of California to the coast of Australia, I am a brand new doggy-paddler attempting to swim that far. If God’s glory is the top of Mount Everest, I am a stunted shriveled Death Valley cactus trying to grow up to that peak. If God’s glory is the sun, I am a paper rocket powered by baking soda and vinegar. In all my attempts I will always fall short of the glory and wisdom and power and holiness of God.

This realization brings me to my knees with gratitude for grace that didn’t wait for me to bridge the gap (knowing I never could)—grace that made a way.

But here is what I’m learning– the questions I am asking myself these days. What if God isn’t meeting my expectations because my expectations are far too small?

What if I’m so caught up in my expectations of pretty packages that fit neatly into my cupped hand that I completely miss the vastness of the gift God has for me? What if my prayers are being answered in such a huge, glorious, unspeakable way that I can’t even see it yet? What if the ugly gift I see right now—the one that’s prompting me to turn up my nose, clench my fists, shake my head and flounce away—is just the tiniest little corner of a miracle that is going to take my breath away?

I pray this—take this world and give me Jesus—and I think what I’m expecting is a portrait I can hang on my wall. See this? Jesus is here.

But God wants to truly give me Jesus—God with me in all things—God holy and mighty and righteous and just—God who is fire and light and thunder and marvelous unspeakable wonder—God who humbled Himself and walked in our dust and our filth and our darkness—God who loved the unlovable so much He would suffer Himself to die the most terrible death ever known to man.

In my ingratitude I refuse this gift because it does not fit on my shelf, Jesus on my mantelpiece or in a picture frame on my wall. This Jesus that I have asked for—that I have been given—is not here to make me feel good about myself, to make me look good, to sit by passively while I live my life.

This is Jesus Christ, the Son of God—the Creator incarnate—Immanuel, Almighty God with us—and He changes lives. He changes me, molding and transforming my life into His image.

So much more than I asked for. So much harder. So much more glorious. So much more painful, more devastating, more beautiful, more worthwhile.

Advent steals upon me and the Spirit whispers—are you ready for this gift?

And I am afraid, and I am uncertain, and I cannot see more than just the tiniest glimpse of what He’s up to.

Nevertheless, I will open my hands.

He is able to do immeasurably more than anything I could ask or think. And He is the Giver of good gifts.

Take the world, but give me Jesus.

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