The stockings were hung by their desks with care. There was excitement in the air. My kids would be returning to the classroom after Thanksgiving break, and I would welcome them back with Christmas surprises.
Children tickled by the unexpected is one of my favorite feelings.
I slipped the first stocking gift deep into the toe so they would need to reach in to find it. Exuberant chatter exploded throughout the classroom and could be heard floating out the door and down the hallway as the tokens were discovered. My heart was full because I had lovingly presented an offering, and it brought these precious children happiness.
Then a few feet away from me I saw a different look on a child’s face. A look of disappointment - not at all impressed by the small gift.
“These? I don’t like these.”
I was crushed. My once full heart deflated. “You don’t have to keep it,” I managed to say, holding out an open hand to retrieve the gift.
It was placed back in my hand without a moment’s hesitation.
“Yeah, you can give me something different.”
As much hurt as I felt at the rejection of my small token, it was nothing compared to the sorrowful realization overpowering my mind and my heart. Instead of seeing the gift I had given being placed back in my hand, I visualized myself placing a gift back in my heavenly Father’s hand.
I began to wonder how often His heart feels this sad rejection.
With Christmas approaching and the celebration of Christ’s birth, I wondered how many reject the gift of God’s Son.
But that wasn’t what God was trying to show me.
Had I been grumbling and complaining, ungrateful for His daily bread? Searching my heart, God came back with an answer of “no.”
As I stopped to listen and truly hear what the Lord wanted to say to me through this experience, I was hammered by the many negative thoughts and words I hurl at myself in regards to my physical appearance. This is another topic all its own, but I have a lifelong issue of persistently focusing on the physical aspects of myself and longing for them to be different.
Each time I wish for a different body shape, flawless skin, or a particular feature to be resized or restructured, I place the gift of being fearfully and wonderfully created back in my Creator’s hands with a heart response of, “I don’t like this. You can give me something different.”
The journey to understand how God sees me, longing to know I am beautiful in His sight, and grasping His standard of beauty has been difficult and tiring. And it’s not even close to being over.
I don’t know when these thoughts and feelings began, but I do know something shifted in my heart the day an insignificant Christmas gift was placed back in my hand.
My heart broke for what breaks the heart of my heavenly Father. I knew I didn't want to hurt Him by being critical of His handiwork - me - His Beloved daughter.
The steps are small, but I'm starting with being cognizant of each time I hear the word “different” shiftily slip into my thinking as I look in the mirror or at a picture of myself.
What do you wish were different in your life? Whatever it is, I pray this prayer for both of us:
Good, gracious, and generous Father - Giver of gifts - Forgive us for the times we have rejected You and Your gifts. Increase our faith so we may be able to see that every gift has a purpose ... although we may not see it at the time. Cause us to see through Your eyes. Open our hands. Open our hearts. May we raise them up to You and gratefully receive all You have for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.