I have been thinking about the gifts that God gives us vs. the things that we normally think of as gifts. God's doesn't spend much money on wrapping paper or cards, in fact, when you are getting a gift from God it appears at first glance as if it has been sent by an enemy. He often wraps them in difficult circumstances. Difficult isn't really the word I am looking for here, He often wraps them in what appears to be the worst circumstances. I have found that when these gifts come we have a choice, we can either embrace the package, open it and call it reality or we can push it to the side and begin to live just a little bit more in the fantasy life that we are creating for ourselves. There are obvious dangers to each.
On one hand there is a grave danger that if you begin to open the package you will be consumed by it and lose your footing with God and those around you who love you, it is important never to open such a package alone. If you begin to open the package with good intentions and then lose your nerve, I have found that the Father and our friends will come and help to continue the unwrapping if we allow it. The gift from God has one intention really, its purpose is to chisel off a part of you that was never real. Now, to be sure, we think it is real, in fact, we don't think that we can live without it (Here I am reminded of C.S. Lewis's brilliant metaphor of the Lizard on the man's shoulder in The Great Divorce. If you haven't read it, do so immediately) but in reality we really can't continue our journey with it. I can't be more emphatic here. God is in the business of chiseling away at you until you begin to resemble your self.
Soren Kierkegaard said it this way, "And now with God's help, I shall become myself." This is what God does. He doesn't have any interest in communicating with your false self, in fact many of us are so wrapped up in our false selves that we have had to create a God to communicate with, a God that looks suspiciously like a human being, suspiciously like the evangelical God of the last 75 years. Jesus said that entering the Kingdom of God would often take radical amputation, Matthew 6...you know gouge out your eye, cut off your hand...and this is what he was referring to. Some parts of me were about to be chiseled off and like a statue that just lost an important piece, I didn't think I could lose those parts and still be myself.
I don't think this is the best place to do it but at some point I would like to chat about identity. One of the things that happens when we begin to see and hear is that God tells us who we really are. There is a great passsage in the Book of Revelation about a white rock with a name written on it known only to us and to Jesus, this is our real identity. He will hand us that rock on the last day and my hope is that I will say, "Yes, I know, remember we talked about this before." It would truly be awful if I had to say, "Really, this is who I was supposed to be?" That is the definition of one who tried to save his life but lost it.
If you will hang out int he presence of God he will tell you who you are. "Blessed are you Simon, Son of John...I say to you that you are PETER and upon this rock I will build my church." Sorry for the lousy translation but I am going by memory. Simon certainly hadn't acted much like a rock but that is who is really was...Jesus told him who he was and then gradually that is what he became. Same is true for us.
Just as we can see it happen in Peter's life, these gifts from God, though they seem like horrors, will chip away everything that doesn't look like us.
On the other hand there is a much more perilous danger in pushing the gift to the side and acting as if we had never seen the package. We will add another layer to our false selves, we will be on a journey to becoming less and less who we really are instead of more and more ourselves. I have seen this happen often. I want to say 100's of times but that seems unreasonably high. A person is confronted with this kind of gift, perhaps it is a failed marriage or the death of a child, or some other unspeakable pain, and rather than really opening the gift, rather than embracing it all and processing it through, they push it aside and at that moment something happens to them spiritually and emotionally that is hard to describe. They seem to continue with their lives but they seem to be less than themselves, or they seem to be locked into that time of their lives never to move on.
When you see one of these gifts from God you have a choice. An interesting side note is that the gifts of the enemy (some would call this enemy satan, some The Satan figure, some would simply refer to these things as an evil force without personifying it) the gifts that come from the enemy are often wrapped in lovely packages but have decay and death inside of them. In this case you can almost always tell a gift but its wrappings. To be sure sometimes the father gives us lovely gifts with remarkable wrappings, but often His best gifts are wrapped in some of our worst fears.
The gift I was getting was not wrapped in my worst fear, it certainly doesn't compare with the loss of a loved one or a failed marriage but to me at that moment this gift didn't feel like a gift at all. What it did for me was open doors to my heart that could not be opened in any other way and so it was a wonderful gift. However it came wrapped in the paper of another break down and a growing lack of resources.
More on this later. I really don't have any pictures at this point, I wasn't in the mood to snap any shots of this dark cloud that began growing in my mind. Again, I want to close sooner than I thought I would. This story may be getting longer than I thought it would.