You ARE the Gift

Christmas creeps closer every day, and if you’re like me – a terrible combination of a procrastinator and bad gift-giver – there’s a certain level of panic starting that’s starting to rise up. And if you’re also conscientious, which I’m sure you are, you also feel a pressure to find the “perfect gift.” The gift that, for $20 or so, says “this is how much I value you and your friendship.”

Ugh. Come Lord Jesus.

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My friend Steve’s first book, Beginnings: The First Seven Days of the Rest of Your Life is coming out on January 1st. I got my copy over the weekend and started reading. I’m forcing myself to only read a chapter a day, treating it like a good scotch and not cheap beer. (I’ll write a lot more about the book and post about it the first week of January.) But this line is something Steve has asked me before about my own life:

“What is your great gift you bring to the world?”

To someone, somewhere, you are a gift. The words you say, your actions, your laugh, your smile, your listening ear, your presence, your music, your art, your cooking skills, your willingness to show up is a gift to someone.

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I gave a Christmas gift to some friends last weekend. I know, it’s early. But when I get excited about something, I can’t hold back. Before we had children, Jennifer and I had usually opened all of our gifts by about the 20th of December! So this year, I had made something – put time and energy into it – and I was really excited to deliver.

And my friends said, “We didn’t know we were doing gifts!”

And I said, “We aren’t! No gifts! I don’t want anything from you, but what you already give.”

See, from these friends, there is no gift they could give us greater than their willingness and insistence on showing up in our lives, of listening, of chasing us down when we were in our darkest spaces. The gift is their friendship. And it’s more than enough.

When you’re in that kind of relationship, there is no quid pro quo to gift giving, there’s no scorecard. Gift giving just overflows out of the heart, it’s just what you do.

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It’s always a little awkward for people, I think, when pastors talk about sex. But it shouldn’t be.

Anyway, I tell people in pre-marital counseling sometimes, if we’re talking about sex, that this spirit of giving is at the heart of great sex. When two partners have lost themselves in the act of giving to the other – if both partners are in this place of giving – then sex becomes something more than just animal instinct. It becomes something mystical, transcendent, beautiful and, well, spiritual.

And the reason I’m talking about sex (besides, well, duh!) is that sex is just the most intimate of a range of intimate relationships. When two friends have this spirit of giving at the heart of their friendship, when business partners have this kind of giving at the heart of their partnership, magic happens.

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So, go ahead, search for the perfect gift. Stress yourself out. Give your all to taping neat corners and tying perfect bows. Giving gifts is a good thing. (And, yes, some gift giving is obligatory, and you only give some people gifts because you ought to. Seriously, spend as little time and emotional energy on these gifts as possible!)

But don’t be confused. To some of the people on your list, what they want most is you – all of you. They want your time, your voice, your ear. They want you to become the best version of yourself, no strings attached, no manipulation. They want to be in the same room as you as often as they can. They want you to write, to speak, to paint, to sing, to do what’s in you, and while it may not be “good,” while you may never get a book deal, and no one may give you money for what you paint, to “your people,” it will mean everything because you ARE a gift and what you do matters to them.

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So, today, or at least sometime in this Christmas season, be a gift to someone. Give someone a piece of yourself that you wouldn’t share with just anyone. And while you’re at it, let someone else know that they are a gift to you – that when they show up, it’s enough.

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