Monday, December 3, 2012

Unsatisfied? Reconsider self-gifting

An NPR comment caught my ear: "Self-gifting is a new thing. People would never have purchased for themselves fifty years ago! That would have been considered a lack of humility."

Humility is hardly a valued characteristic in a generation that grew up singing, "I Did It My Way," or their children who hummed along to, "Break Your Heart." It's all about me, my values, my wants. MY presents! Even if I buy them myself.

Around Thanksgiving I decided to "fast" from shopping until after Christmas. Our kids could pick ornaments, china, electronics, crystal, or chatchkis from our house if they needed more stuff. They sure don't want my husband or me buying junk to pile on top of their things, no matter how nice we think that junk is or how much we spend. Do your family and friends feel the same?

I can't tell you how often I've clicked out of an online shopping cart since my spending fast began. Or how many times I've forgotten and purchased a trinket or indulgence. Last weekend, I splurged on salted caramel handmade chocolates. Not because I needed them but because my eyes desired them and I forgot about my fast. Consumerism makes it easy to splurge on self-gifts: "You deserve this." "You have looked for this for a long time." (Do three weeks feel long to you?) "It's on sale." Etc.

In contrast, God's self-gifts are unlike ours. He doesn't look for His own advantage, for what we can give Him. Instead, He spends Himself freely on us as a response of His loving character. He wants to be with us. He cherishes the creatures He has made enough to reach out to us through Jesus (aptly cliched  as "the Reason for the season.")

God refuses to be our Gimme-Genie. The biblical writer James warns, "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." (James 4:3)

I've asked God for a lot of things: health, safety, money for school, and peace in the family. He's often responded with, "Yes, gladly!" But not always. Sometimes we get sick. We run out of resources. Relationships churn through difficult times. God doesn't always give us what we think we deserve or want. Faith demands trust in a God who knows what is best and right for us and those we care about.

Instead of spending money and resources on our pleasures, shall we consider giving ourselves away this month? After all, when we belong to God, we should imitate him in all things. We can gift love to the unlovable. Justice instead of self-service. Mercy instead of punitive action. Grace to the most undeserving. Friendship with the unlovely. Generosity to the poor.

That kind of self-giving is ultimately satisfying and soul-filling. Plus you skip the huge debts and financial self-immolation that hits after the holidays are over. What do you think?

Read more:
*You are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. Psalm 25:5

*Christ says, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” Matthew 7:7

*Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35 NIV

*[In the last week of his life, Jesus said,] "Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." John 16:22-24

Moravian Prayer: O God of our salvation, eternal hope and source of strength, let our lives be a response to your steadfast love and grace. Amen.

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