How do you receive a gift? What is your response to a wrapped box before you even know what’s inside?
Today is my birthday and I am one proud woman to be 47. I’ve waited my whole life to be forty-seven! That’s 17,176 days of life, and God has given every one of them to me, and never failed to bring me through each one. I’m determined to absolutely rock this year of life like only someone with ridiculous gratitude can.
Because it’s my birthday I’m starting this day here with you sharing my absolute favorite lesson. This is the lesson of the Birthday Girls, and yes, I’ve taught it every year for the past 7 years.
Some of you already know the tag line that has changed our attitude and perspective, and it has become your response to every gift offered by God. If you don’t know it, it’s coming.
Imagine with me you have come to the birthday party of 3 little girls. It’s gift time at the party and the girls each sit down at a long table with a wrapped box in front of them. This is the gift you brought for each of the girls.
Birthday girl #1 unwraps the gift, finds the baby doll you bought in the pink dress, gives a slight smile and obligatory ‘thank you’, then quickly focuses on the next present.
Birthday girl #2 rips into her gift, sees that she too received a baby doll from you, but she’s upset it’s yellow and not pink like birthday girl #1. She doesn’t like yellow. She pouts in jealousy with her folded arms and angry eyebrows.
Maybe you’ve been to a birthday party that went down about like this. You regret even buying a gift because there was no real gratitude shown. Just a continual desire for something more or something different.
So, birthday girl … which one are you?
I know it may not be your birthday today, but girl don’t you realize the gift you have received? The ultimate gift has been set before you, wrapped in the rising sun. Here it is, the gift of a brand new day of life. How did you receive it?
Some of us were birthday girl #2, royally disappointed that today isn’t what we wanted. UNGRATEFUL. It’s a work day or it’s a school day. It’s too early and we wanted more sleep. It’s too hot or it’s too cold and we’re like freaking Goldilocks, never happy with anything.
Gosh, aren’t we guilty of always wanting what we don’t have? When it’s Summer we want Fall, then when it turns to Fall we want Summer back. We dreamed of that man to spend the rest of our lives with, now the very sound of him breathing is annoying. We prayed for these babies, now we are nothing but frustrated and overwhelmed. We hoped for that job, now we dread showing up for work. Birthday girl #2, all these gifts and we’re not happy with any of them.
But my guess is, most of us are more like birthday girl #1. We’re just UNIMPRESSED by the gift. Today is okay, but it’s nothing to get all rip roaring excited over. We’ve kinda gotten gifts like this one before. I’ve had a day like this one many times. It’s nothing new, nothing impressive, just ordinary.
So, we too respond to the gift with a slight smile and obligatory, ‘thank you God for today’, but truthfully, we’re more focused on the days that have already passed or the ones to come. Not this gift, the next gift. The bigger one and better one maybe to come. And so we live this day missing all the beauty it holds because we’re here, but not really here.
Unimpressed or ungrateful. Could this be us? The girls who have received the gift of a new day of life wrapped in the rising sun? No, it can’t be!!!!!
Lamentations 3: 22&23 MSG “God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness!”
What is your response to this loyal love God has created new for you this morning? Are you unimpressed because you’ve woken up every single day of your life to his mercy and grace? Has it just grown old to you? Are you ungrateful because everything isn’t as you hoped it would be by now?
Unimpressed. Is that you?
Ungrateful. Is that you?
Let me introduce you to the third birthday girl. You’ve met her sisters, Miss Unimpressed and Miss Ungrateful.
Birthday girl #3 sits and anxiously awaits the unwrapping of her gift. Now it’s her turn as the other 2 have gone before her. She wiggles and squirms in her chair, anticipating the greatness of what she has received. She holds the box and says, “thank you, thank you, thank you, I love it!” She hasn’t unwrapped the gift yet, she doesn’t know what’s inside, but she’s so grateful to have received the gift. She has decided to love it no matter what.
Birthday girl #3 has PREDETERMINED HAPPINESS. She has decided in advance she will love what she has received.
This can be us. We can wake up today, not knowing what the day holds, with predetermined happiness. Uncircumstantial joy.
“Thank you God, I love it.”
I love this day you have given me. I don’t have to know the details of this day before deciding right now I’m ridiculously grateful for it.
Will you be birthday girl #3? “Thank you God, I love it.”
For many years, I kept a tiny gold wrapped gift box on my nightstand with a tag that said #3. It was my reminder for every morning when I woke up. BE BIRTHDAY GIRL #3. Thank you God, I love it!
But, the lesson doesn’t end there … Real life hit me and it will hit you too. What do you do when what you receive can’t be loved?
I taught this lesson for the first time exactly 7 years ago on a devotional. I remember it well because it was the morning of my 40th birthday. It was easy to declare I was going to love the day before knowing what was to come because honestly birthdays are typically pretty awesome. What I didn’t know is moments after leading that devotional where I declared, “Thank you God, I love it!”, I discovered my 13 year old little girl had tried to cut both her wrists while I was sleeping.
It was the hardest day of my life.
How could I love this? How could I be grateful for this? I couldn’t. And God didn’t expect me to.
This is where I began to understand a deeper faith. A faith that says this isn’t good right now, but through God’s redeeming power, one day it will be. A faith that clings to Genesis 50:20 for my daughter’s life “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Faith to understand if it’s not good yet, then God’s not done yet.
I’m naturally an optimistic person. I assumed God would redeem this intended harm, and he would redeem it quickly. I would get glimpses of breakthroughs and quickly believe, ‘This is it. We’re finally at the good part.’ I never imagined 7 years later we still wouldn’t be at the ‘good part.’ It’s still hard. There’s still darkness and struggle. I’m still waiting to see how God has used it all for good. There’s still so much I find really hard to love.
But you know what God showed me this morning on the 7th year of teaching this lesson and holding on to something good that we haven’t seen yet? That scripture, Genesis 50:20 was written by Joseph. Joseph was the boy who was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, and lived a life of unjust slavery and imprisonment as a result. The moment of redemption where he stood before his brothers in a position to now save their lives saying, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”, didn’t come for over 20 years!!!!
He was 17 when he was sold into slavery by his brothers, and 40 when he stood before them in a position of power and saved their lives.
For more than 20 years Joseph chose predetermined happiness. For over 20 years he refused bitterness. Over 20 years of looking at all that was wrong and all that was bad, and still believing God was working in it all to bring something good.
And didn’t God do it? Yes he did!
So here I am on year 7, and maybe there are a whole lot of years to go. Okay, what will I do with all the gifts between now and then? Will I choose to waste them? Will I grow ungrateful? Will I become hardened? Will I be cynical? Will I wallow in regret or sadness?
I don’t know what you’re still waiting on to be made good, but every single day in that wait is an invitation to live knowing God is still working. That invitation comes with the ability to still LOVE today in the middle of the mess and trust God knows exactly what he is doing.
A gift was set before you today. You have a choice. Who will you be and how will you receive it?
Some days are easy to love. Some days aren’t. He is Lord over both.
Life threatens to dull the excitement of each new day with it’s monotonous routines and daily grind. Don’t allow yourself to become unimpressed by the gift.
Life also threatens to make us jealous and cynical when things go wrong for us and right for others. Don’t allow yourself to become ungrateful for the gift.
You don’t know what today holds, and you don’t have to in order to be ridiculously grateful for it.
Take a look at the gift wrapping on this gift, the rising sun. Look at the care and attention to detail your creator put into the wrapping alone. Gosh, it’s a magnificent gift. Give yourself permission to be overjoyed by the gift of today.
This is uncircumstantial happiness. This is deep faith in knowing God will work all things together for good. This is partnering in the process instead of standing in the way with our reluctance or critical eye.
Thank you God, I love it. I don’t have to know all this day holds to know it’s a gift from you and whatever comes my way, you’re going to make it work for good. And if it takes 20 years, I won’t waste a single day in the wait.
Thank you God, I love it. Go ahead and open your gift now, Sis.