I am staring a pile of goodness. Folded fabric, salt and pepper shakers, mint candies, and Yogi tea. Artwork by kids I love and and trail mix are the way to my heart. I never think of myself as receiving love by receiving gifts, but when on a Saturday morning there is a knock at our front door and two packages arrive from the snowy north, I find myself feeling quite loved.
There is something about being known and perhaps that's why the gifts mean more. Perhaps if the boxes were filled with generic or obligatory gifts, they would mean less. But each fold of grey and orange flannel, each ceramic button, and each favorite tea bag says, quite personally, "Hey, Lor, yeah, you. I love you. I know what you love and here is how I'll love you."
A week ago I had a conversation with my roommate about Christmas lists. My family never made Christmas lists. I suppose it was something about being grateful for everything we got on Christmas, or perhaps the element of surprise was too important to risk losing to a litany of wants voiced. I don't know. She asks me what I'd put on it, and I name something partly in jest, not because I want it, but because I need it and I won't spend the money to buy it on my own.
The next day a birthday card from Florida arrives in the mail with a check in it, a note at the bottom clarifying that I buy exactly what I'd joked about needing. I hadn't mentioned it to anyone but Season, but somehow, the knowing is there. I chuckle at God's retort to my jest: you think that if you ask for bread, I will give you a stone?
I begin a retort back, "Well, sometimes you have given me a stone when I've asked for bread." But I stop mid-sentence. Because I am learning that God gives us exactly what we need in exactly the right way and time.
We finished the first half of our study in Genesis this past week and I am weeping in the car on the way home, weeping because we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses who never saw the Bread they'd been promised. For thousands of years it seemed they were given stones in the form of war and destruction, repetitive sacrifices and rules, but no Messiah.
It must have hurt to feel unknown by a God who made promises with no seeming end in sight.
How good it is to be known and to be blessed by things that answer prayers and feel right in my life; how beautiful it is to open a box of joy, and how life-giving it is to receive.
But how good it is too, to hold on to years of stones, piling up altars of remembrance, Ebeneezers of Thus Fars, things that feel cold and lifeless in their season, but point ahead to a promise.
"I know you, even now. And I am coming through for you! I am coming down for you! I will dwell among you! I am your bread! And I am coming!"