You’ve heard of The Five Love Languages?
I have most of them in fairly even measure. . .
Except for one. The one that seems to matter the most this time of year.
I got the dregs of the barrel in terms of gifts as a love language. It’s not that I don’t like giving gifts, because I really do. It makes me happy to make people feel special. It’s just that it doesn’t come naturally, thus requiring a monumental amount of energy.
So each Christmas, I try to figure out how to get around it. Maybe we can just give a charitable donation, put everyone’s name on it, and call it good? (I actually suggested that to my roommates one year. Needless to say, they didn’t go for it.)
Alas, there’s no mercy for the likes of me at Christmas. Sometimes tradition is just too powerful to fight. Gifts! Gifts for everyone we love! Gifts for people we don’t even know! And they all better be meaningful, practical, and special!
Add to that the equally monumental task of trying to navigate the tensions between consumerism, not-so-deep pockets, and the desire to honor the Advent of the Savior. . .
It’s a little exhausting, folks.
However, I can rally. I just have to pull myself into a certain cobwebby corner of my brain and try to think like a gift-giver.
Thankfully, the Lord is faithful to help us, and He brought both tasks together for me through one little verse:
“Let us make a vow to the LORD our God and keep it; let all around him bring gifts to him who is worthy to be feared.” (Psalm 76:11, italics mine)
This arrested my attention one morning this week. In all the focus of giving gifts to the people in my life, I had overlooked the One most worthy of receiving.
But what do you give the Great Gift-Giver???
As I sat at the window and pondered, watching the neighborhood kids trudging to school, the answer came, and it was exactly what I didn’t want to hear. But it was too clear to miss – like someone reached over and stamped it on the glass:
Give me your music.
A couple weeks ago, I was asked to lead some worship for a women’s event. My initial reaction? Not a chance.
Why? Well, my relationship with music ministry is broken. It’s a gigantic ball of complicated mess, and I’ve come to terms with the sad state of things. No need to dredge it all up again, thank you very much.
This confession probably comes as a surprise to most people. After all, here I am, newly married to a musician (we have 14 instruments in our house – no joke). I serve on a worship team at a healthy church, and teach piano at an amazing place called The Studio. I have visions of dabbling in vocal jazz and madrigals again, and in my sleep dream at least once a week of directing an ensemble of some sort.
This is a good place to be. I’ve accepted my musician-identity as a piano teacher who fills the need for a keyboardist at church, and that’s about where it ends. Let’s not mess with it.
Give me your music.
But Lord, You do know what You’re getting into, right? You realize that it comes with a backlog of confusing experiences? Like in college, where overwhelming feelings of insufficiency and frustration, as well as fear of music becoming an idol, led me to abandon my pursuits altogether. Or when I was doing full-time ministry, and music wasn’t even part of my work, and You were okay with that. And then I moved up here, and a musician friend showed me that I had something precious to give, so I was like, Alright, then, I’ll become a worship director at a struggling church, and pour my heart and soul into ministering through music…until there was maliciousness and blackmail and a whole garbage-truck load of hurt.
Give me your music.
No. No. No! Why does it have to be music, Lord? I’ve never felt at peace there. I want to minister in other ways, like discipleship or. . .well, discipleship pretty much sums it up.
I miss being in people’s lives. Like, actually making a difference and watching them grow spiritually – not up on a stage, 25 feet away, hoping someone might raise their hand or something to show me they are engaged.
Give me your music.
A conversation comes to mind, back two or so years ago, walking through the forest behind the church, where I told God I was done trying to tell Him what to do with me. I told Him I was ready to let go of my preconceived ideas about what I was good at or how I should be serving Him. I vowed to let God call the shots.
I meant specifically my desire to have a speaking or scripture teaching ministry of some sort. . .and a husband. God took me to mean everything, of course.
“Let us make a vow to the LORD our God and keep it. . .”
He took me at my word, and right away packed me off to work with special needs kids. I meekly obeyed, a little daunted by the reality that God was, in fact, in charge, and figuring I was done with formal ministry for good, not to mention getting a husband.
But I see now that I haven’t kept my vow. In my heart, I’ve been telling the Lord what I should be doing. Or rather, what I shouldn’t be doing. And I definitely shouldn’t be doing worship ministry.
Give me your music. You can trust Me with your music.
There’s this thing I’ve noticed: when I look at a broken thing in my life, all I can see is something impossible to unravel. I can’t imagine it looking like anything other than a mess. And I sure can’t imagine how I would be able to minister to others through it.
But when I look at that broken thing with Jesus, I see a mess that shimmers around the edges with something called hope.
Music ministry. It’s not the gift I would choose to give the Lord. But it’s the gift the Lord chose to give me. He meant it for good.
It can still be good.
Time to think like a gift-giver. The giver gives what would bless the other person, even if they would never in a million years want it for themselves. And then, the receiver beautifies the gift for the giver – because of the joy it brings them.
So, this Advent season, while racking my brain for gifts to set under the tree, I will also spend quiet moments giving the Lord a gift. A gift that will bless Him because it brings Him joy. The gift of myself, even the messy parts.
. . .let all around him bring gifts to him who is worthy to be feared.”