Gifts… they make you feel noticed. They are especially cherished when received from someone who has been sensitive to our wants. One of my favorite Christmas gifts was given to me from my newly wed husband. It was the first Christmas where we had our own tree, and where we celebrated our own Christmas morning alone as a new couple. It was such a simple gift really, but it meant so much to me. The gift was a DVD of the movie, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. It seems a silly present to most people, especially in this age of instant viewing any movie you could want on your computer or television; but to me, it meant that I was heard. I was not purposely dropping hints for him to buy me this movie; rather, I was just nostalgically reflecting upon my childhood Christmases, where we would devotedly watch this classic. He heard me reminisce and he responded with a simple act of love and generosity.
We love being heard; being loved. We all want to know love, to be loved, and to feel like we are truly seen. Most of us have those memories of feeling loved, and those moments are glued in our mind and hearts. Those words of encouragement, that card, those flowers, and that hug are all ways we receive love. But love is a two-way street. Love is not meant to be simply received. For us to truly FEEL love, we must give it, and give it sacrificially.
The readings for Sunday talk all about a love that gives. Elisha was presented with barley loaves that were the “first fruits” of a harvest. The man wasn’t giving his leftovers, his scraps – he presented his best to the servant of God and they were blessed and multiplied. Sometimes, though, it can be scary to give. Of course, it’s easy to see that with monetary gifts. If you give to a charity or to a church, you may not have enough money to get the things that you need. But even giving of ourselves – emotionally, physically, and mentally – can be a very draining experience. Sometimes it’s just downright painful to be giving and sacrificially loving to someone. It takes a lot out of us. But in the Psalms, we are reminded that God provides for us. We shouldn’t be afraid to give to the Lord or to others, because He promises to take care of us. He feeds us and meets our needs.
I’ve dealt with the sleepless nights of a newborn baby nine times in my life, and each time I think I won’t survive the lack of rest. But I remind myself, “God will give me the sleep I need.” And you know? He does. At some point I feel like I catch up and I can go on. But sometimes, we feel like our acts of love and the giving of ourselves that this requires is just not enough. We feel insufficient; lacking. Consider these examples: A friend who is really suffering, or another whose family is falling apart. There are many who have had their heart broken by betrayal. Another person may have a disease where their body is waging war on itself. For us to love those friends in their broken moments can be overwhelming and seemingly impossible. We feel useless. There have been several moments in my life when I have had friends suffering so much, that there is really nothing I can do for them. So I tell them that I may not have the best advice or the perfect solution, but I can cry with them. I can be present to them, even in silence, and beg with our Lord on their behalf.
Those moments are the fish and loaves in our lives. Those small, insignificant gifts that won’t seem to even make a dent in the ocean of need, but we present them to Christ and He blesses them and multiplies them. Jesus can feed thousands with your small gifts of deep sacrificial love. We are just called to give; give of ourselves. Christ will do the math. He will meet the needs of everyone, including you. In our family we have a saying, “You can’t out-give God.” As much as you feel you have given, even to the point of depletion, He will always reward you with more. In the Gospel, the boy who gave the fish and the loaves that day gave everything he had. He wasn’t then neglected while others ate from his sacrificial generosity. He, too, was satisfied. We are experiencing love by giving the little that we have. We are not going to be used up and depleted in the process of giving. Jesus will satisfy us as well.