Over the weekend, we turned the calendar from January to February, which means that the single most polarizing “holiday” of the year- Valentine’s Day- is right around the corner. Regardless of your current thoughts on this day (Single’s Awareness Day, anyone?), if you’re like me, there is some lingering childhood nostalgia surrounding the celebration.
I’m not sure how this worked when and where you went to school, but at my elementary school, each year Valentine’s Day meant one thing, and one thing only- The opportunity to score some free candy. This candy was typically attached to the little children’s character cards, complete with some bland, generic Valentine’s Day message that I generally ignored in favor of the real loot. In any case, each year everyone in the class would bring their stash and distribute them to everyone else, resulting in mass amounts of sugar consumption for the remainder of the day.
As glorious as this celebration was, there was always one risk associated with it- What if someone didn’t bring enough to share? What if someone’s uninformed parent assumed there were 25 students in the class, when in reality there were 27? And what if you were number 26, and missed out on those rockin’ Ninja Turtles Valentine’s and Jolly Rancher lollipops that were going out to everyone else? This was a devastating scenario. Perhaps even worse was when you were the kid coming up short, and thus subject to the scornful glances of your second grade classmates. It was essential that this situation be avoided at all costs.
But let me know throw another, different scenario at you- What if your parents packed you plenty of cards and candy- the good stuff too!- but instead of distributing them to everyone like a good citizen, you kept them stashed away in your backpack, solely for yourself, and lied to everyone about it? That’s not regret; it’s outright neglect. And not only were your classmates deprived in this circumstance of the good gift that you had to give, you also cast doubt as to the character and goodness of your parents, which “didn’t give you enough to share” with anyone else.
As childish as this example might be (literally!), I believe it is a strikingly accurate picture of that which we as Christ followers often do with the “good gift” which God the Father has given to us- namely, the Gospel of Jesus. God has given it to us by grace, so that we might share it with the world in which He has placed us for His purposes. Too often, though, we keep it hidden, “stashed away” for ourselves only, and tell the world- whether blatantly or simply by silence- that we don’t have anything to give them.
I’m convinced that we do this for a broad variety of reasons. Perhaps we devalue the gift or are somehow embarrassed by it, as though our Father is sending us out with the equivalent of Care Bears Valentines and butterscotch. Perhaps we’re fearful of trying to give it away and somehow “failing,” being rejected and mistreated by others. Or perhaps, most maliciously, we simply don’t want to give it to anyone else, believing that they aren’t “worthy” of receiving it and that we are somehow better or more deserving of it than they are. Whatever the reason, the reality is that we’ve been given something of supreme value, with clear instructions to give it away to everyone that we can. And when we fail to do that, others miss out, and God is seen as less glorious and gracious than He truly is.
What would it look like for this to change in your life, starting today? I believe the first step is to have your heart and mine recaptured by the wonder of grace, the soul shaking reality that God loves us and accept us in Christ despite the mess of sin that riddles our hearts. When you begin to see and consider afresh what He has done in you, you’ll find the motivation to share it with others. No one will have to convince you to give it away; it will simply become the natural overflow of your heart and life. God has given you and I more than enough to share with the world. Let’s distribute it this week in joy, in love, and in expectation that God is going to use it to do for others exactly what He has for us.