Don’t Give Your Gifts a Haircut

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The story was a classic. I wanted to share its joy with my children. It was about gifts, bought and received. A beautiful story to make a person smile. But when I finished the last sentence, both children were in tears.

My youngest child declared, "I don't like that story."

Maybe you remember the tale. The Gift of the Magi. In the story, Della sells her "rippling shining hair" that's like a "cascade of brown waters" to buy her beloved Jim a new pocket watch chain. While she's off selling her hair and buying his gift, Jim is on his own mission. He sells the pocket watch his father gave him, in order to buy tortoise-shell combs for Della's extraordinary hair. It's a story of sacrificial love, but my children could not see the joy in it. They both agreed they never wanted to hear it again.

"Why does it make you sad?" I asked.

They answered emphatically, "Because they couldn't use the gifts they gave each other!"

It struck me that there's indeed something to mourn about gifts that lay unused. I suddenly thought about God Himself, the Father who gives us gifts and talents with all the earnestness of a young lover. He waits for us to unwrap these gifts and put them to work, but like Della and Jim we've sometimes sold the very part of ourselves that makes that possible.

For instance, some of us are like King Saul. He went to battle with admirable energy. But then he skirted spiritual convention, offering a sacrifice before the prophet of the Lord showed up to do it. Later, he decided to take only part of God's advice. Similarly, we may attack our work with great energy; but when we sell our moral bearings, we forfeit the gift of true leadership.

Or some of us are like Moses. When the Israelites were thirsty, God told him to command a rock to yield water. But he strutted his stuff saying, "Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?" Then he hit the rock twice, maybe for extra powerful visual effect. Similarly, we may hit rocks for water, so to speak, to look powerful. When we sell our trust in God, we lose the gift of team celebration and we miss out on the milk and honey.

Some of us are even like Absalom, stealing the hearts of people to assure our own advancement. As it went, Absalom would stand at the gate and greet people when they came to the king for judgment. Then he'd "take hold of them, and kiss them" to make it seem like he really cared, maybe even more than the king cared. Similarly, we may engage in a subtle sell-out that makes us divisive in our work. We may advance to a point, but we do so in a kind of shame because we disrespected others along the way.

Saul. Moses. Absalom. They each forfeited some very special gifts from God. I don't know how you're functioning in your work life today. I don't know your story. But I hope it's one that will bring God tears of joy, not sadness.

Read more from L. L. Barkat at her blog Seedings in Stone, part of the network.

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