Friday, November 26, 2010

From the Gift to the Giver

A few weeks ago as I was catching up on the ironing I listened to a recorded discussion about Jonathan Edward's teaching on the practice of gratitude. I was shocked to hear that it wasn't a discipline he encouraged. Why not? Well, from the discussion I gathered this: Edwards felt it was not good enough. He was concerned that if we fix our gaze on the gifts, we could miss the beauty of the Giver. He believed that the beauty of Christ should so captivate our souls that if we were never to receive a single gift from His hand, He alone would be enough for our souls to be fully satisfied.


Isn't that Job's story? "Though He slay me, yet will I trust him." In the midst of his pain, when he would cry out to God with that "WHY?" question, God always answered WHO. Over and over and over and over again. Always God pointed to Himself. And in the end, God was enough!

When the pain in my life is so great that it feels like hypocrisy to "look for the silver lining," is it possible to train my mind to gaze instead on the beauty of Christ himself? He is the One who never changes. He is the One who is always, always, always good. He is the One in whom all the promises of God are YES! He is the One who will transform me from glory unto glory.

As I've been pondering this I remembered this little story from C.S. Lewis:

I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black.
I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it. Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.
Originally published in The Coventry Evening Telegraph, July 17, 1945
And I wonder if I can discipline myself, with each counted blessing, to turn and look up the beam to the Source of the gift. To see more of Him. To know Him better. This really does happen sort of automatically as I count my many blessings, but what if I shifted my own focus just a bit to see the blessing as just the wrapping of the gift in which the Giver makes more of Himself known to me? What if it was my intention to let every undeserved gift be simply the means by which I learn more of Jesus? What if I worked at looking for specific ways that every gift helped me cast my gaze upon the beauty of the Lord? Couldn't this take the already transformational practice of gratitude journaling to a whole new level? Couldn't this truly transform my mind -- from glory unto glory??

Am I crazy to think that maybe even the Beauty Hunters might learn this next step? What it might look like I'm not sure, but maybe something like this:

J: "I'm thankful for my new puppy."
Me: "Why do you think God blessed you with that new puppy?"
J: "I don't know, 'cause I wanted it?"
Me: "Did you know that God's Word tell us that when Jesus was here on earth he had every feeling that we ever have -- and yet he didn't ever sin? Do you think that maybe because Jesus knows what's like to need a friend who is always with you -- that maybe that's why he gave you a dog? Did you know that more than a dog can ever be -- Jesus promises that He will never leave you, never forsake you? That puppy is a very special gift, but Jesus is an even greater gift isn't he, J?"

Or maybe I'm crazy to think that I'll have to help them see this. It is they who teach me so often.

Maybe, with habitual practice, we will all learn, with every gift, to shift our gaze - from examining the beam of light, to examining its Source. May we be so captivated by the beauty of Christ that our souls are satisfied in Him -- with or without the gifts.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.   2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV

holy experience

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