Tuesday, June 4, 2013

When we offer our gifts

This is a message I shared on my own blog some time ago which provoked a good discussion and I thought I'd post it here too.

Next week is my youngest son's ninth birthday and we've been wrapping presents, which he's been shaking and trying to guess. Every Christmas or significant birthday, I've faced the challenge of trying to match gifts with people who will love them. I like to think they will find my presents valuable or useful and not be disappointed. Don't we all prefer to think that our presents are being used and loved rather than sitting, forgotten, in the back of some cupboard or drawer? But protocol demands that when we give a gift, it's out of our hands and we must leave it to the recipient to decide what to do with it.

Years ago I got into some friction with my mum which started when she offered to give me back a present I'd given her so that I could give it to my mother-in-law instead. I protested that I gave it to her, thought she'd like it and didn't want it back. She said she was only trying to help and then got offended and didn't talk to me for some time. I regretted opening my mouth and it made me more determined than ever to remember that what other people do with presents I give them is their own business. If we find the perfect centrepiece for somebody's hall stand and then they don't choose to put it there, we can't march over and demand that they do. Once it's wrapped and handed to them, it's out of our control.

Well, why should it be any different with gifts we give to God? Many of us have heard it said that God gives us our passions and talents and what we do with them is our gift back to Him. In my case, I like the notion that writing novels isn't just amusing myself and others but giving a gift back to God. But it struck me that some of the angst I go through may stem back to this whole thing about gift giving. Am I treating God with the same protocol I'd treat anybody else I gave a gift to? Or am I getting my nose out of joint because I really want Him to use it a particular way?

Perhaps I catch myself thinking like this. If I give God my writing, I consider it a good gift which includes time, imagination and skill in crafting words and telling stories. It also covers the sacrifice of possible money I would have earned doing something else instead. So I expect Him to take it and make sure lots of people read it, recommend it to their friends and that I'll get plenty of good feedback. I also like to think that He'll wrangle things so I can earn enough money from it to support my family and even get to take them on little holidays from time to time. I want Him to help set up articles and speaking engagements. I look at the lifestyles of other authors and notice that this seems to be the way He's used their gifts. That's how He's supposed to use a writing gift, isn't it?

But no, God, like anyone else, has a perfect right to leave my gift at the back of His cupboard if He wants to. What applies to other people must also apply to Him. It's my inconsistency that makes me sad. A vase may be put on the hall stand for show where many people can see it, or it may be used in the recipient's own private retreat to be used only by them. In the same way, a gift of writing may be used by God to impact millions, or perhaps just thousands, hundreds or even tens.

If you're like me, you chafe at the idea of being tossed to the back of a cupboard and forgotten about. Imagine somebody taking out your gift and saying, "I forgot all about this. I totally would've been using it if I remember I had it." Over the years, I wonder if I've had some vague, unconscious idea that this is what it may have been like with my writing in God's celestial drawer?

Bringing these feelings to light shows up some ridiculousness about them. It helps to remember the nature of this particular recipient, who has promised that He's numbered all the hairs on our heads, that He'll never forget about any of us, that there's nowhere we can hide from Him, no matter how fast or far we may try to run. He is closer than our next breath and living deep in our hearts. Thankfully, this is where He differs from any normal gift recipient. His drawers don't contain darkness and cobwebs. He is responsible and dependable with what we give Him, because He gave it to us in the first place. And that needs to be enough for us. All we need to worry about is being good stewards of our gifts and using them to the best of our abilities, trusting Him to illuminate what we don't know every step of the way. We need to rely on His promise that He doesn't give gifts for nothing and will certainly make sure our gift are put to perfect use.

Paula Vince is an award-winning Australian author of Christian fiction and homeschooling mother. Visit her at www.paulavince.com


  1. Good post,Paula. I especially empathize with the bit about God managing my career so that the books I write to His glory, sell in the bajillions and I get enough money to fly first-class. You've given me a good reminder that it's my job to cultivate the gifts God gave me and not whine for more.

  2. What Alice said! I echo an "Amen". Good analogy and very practical nudge toward an attitude adjustment (which I very much needed).

  3. Ouch. How right you are about our thinking. Our writing is God's to do with as he pleases. Maybe he only intends to impact me and my proofreader. But even if he uses my gift in some small private place, he never forgets me in the back of the cupboard.

  4. Lovely post Paula. I associated with so much you said.

  5. Thanks, Paula. Great, honest, challenging post. Such a challenge, isn't it, to get the balance right of giving over our books to God and trusting him to do whatever with it but also doing our best to get it into the hands of readers.