(You may visit Mary Beth Bonacci's website at www.reallove.net.)
Not long ago, I went on a rather long trip. While I was away, I picked up a gift for a friend’s daughter. It was just a little trinket, but I thought it was cute. I also thought I was being rather magnanimous, and I couldn’t wait to get home and see her delighted little eyes when I presented it to her. Sure enough, when she saw I had brought her something, she jumped up and squealed with delight. But then when she opened it, her face fell a little bit and she muttered, “Thanks.”
That night I tucked her into bed. Always the glutton for punishment, I asked “Did you like your present?” Her reply will warm the hearts of parents everywhere:
“I was hoping it was a beanie baby.”
Of course, our job as adults is to teach kids that responses like this are inappropriate. A gift is a gift, and they’re supposed to be grateful that someone cared enough to think about them. They’re also supposed to accept the gift on its own merits, without comparing it to gifts other children have received, or gifts they’re hoping to receive. It’s childish to do any less, isn’t it?
But then we adults turn around and do the same thing.
I realized that during a recent radio interview I did. I was chatting with the show’s host about marriage and single adults. Since he was married and I was a single adult, the discussion was an interesting study in contrasts. Describing his own marriage, he said that he had met his wife in church, at the tender age of 23. He described that chance meeting as a “gift.” I, of course, jokingly complained that most of the rest of us walk into churches over and over again for years without ever receiving that particular gift.
But, on some level, I was thinking what most single people think when they hear a story like that. “Why don’t I receive that gift? Why doesn’t God send someone for me? Doesn’t He love me enough?”
Thinking back on that moment I remembered my little friend and the beanie baby. And I realized that I probably do the same thing to God.
I’m not the only one. Over and over, I hear the same lament from single people. “I’ve been asking and asking for a spouse. God isn’t sending me one, even though everyone around me seems to be finding someone. God must not care about me. I’m starting to doubt my faith.”
I realized that I should start asking those people — and myself — some questions. “How is your life going? Any good things happening to you? What are they? Are you seeing God work in your life? How?” They need to stop and think. Otherwise they tend to get so focused on the one gift they want, that they fail to see all of the other gifts God is showering on them. God knows their hearts, knows their needs and knows what is best for them at any given point in their lives. And He loves them. He is undoubtedly showering their lives with gifts all the time. But, like ungrateful little children, they throw those gifts back in His face. They don’t want whatever He’s peddling. They want beanie babies, darn it!
I’m using the example of single people here, but the lesson applies to everyone. We constantly tie God’s love for us into the particular gifts He gives us. Specifically, we tie it to the gifts we want Him to give to us. And then, we try to withhold our love; treating our faith like a negotiating tool we can use to get to the goodies we really want.
What kind of spoiled little brats are we?
I think it would behoove us all, in this Easter season, to make an effort to look at the gifts we have received from God. Where is He blessing you in your life? Where has He shown His love for you? It may not be in the way you expect, or in the way you’ve been demanding. Maybe He’s showing His love for you through a loved one, or through a fortunate “coincidence” in your life. Maybe He’s showing His love for you by allowing you to suffer, to share in the death and resurrection of Christ.
Whatever the way, He is doing it because He loves you. And because He absolutely knows what is best for you. He wants good things for you. He wants the very best for you. What’s more, He wants you to share eternity with Him in Heaven. And everything He does for you, or to you, is aimed at that goal.
And, if beanie babies are gonna get in the way, you won’t be getting any beanie babies. It’s okay. Really.