We spent this past weekend with new friends that are in the process of relocating to Ohio. The weekend was filled with authentic conversation, exposed hearts, a late night visit to the local ice cream hot spot, and a day visit to our favorite local coffee shop. The last night of our visit, we sat on the grass at a park and talked about where we’ve been and where we’re headed and how God has been traceable through it all. We ended the night with a late night pizza delivery, sleepy children and root beer floats.
Good friendship is a sweetness something like your favorite dessert. Actually, it’s so much more than that. It’s like finding home again after being gone from it longer than you expected. To feel known and loved is beautiful and the best gift we can receive.
During one of our conversations, our friend told us about a time in his life when he was attending a church that told him what a gift he was to the members there. Yet, during the entire time of his attending there, he was never once used in the areas of his giftedness. He was a gift that sat unopened.
The statement was not lost on me.
When it comes to receiving gifts, I am like a five year old the night before Christmas. My anticipation gets the best of me. I beg and act ridiculous and so I guess it’s a good thing my husband waits until Christmas Eve to buy me anything. I am the same with giving gifts. I will beg you to open your gift before it’s time.
Christmas aside, I wonder how many times in my life there has been a gift sitting in front of me that sat unopened. In plain site, but invisible because of my lack of recognition. Maybe I miss it because it doesn’t look the way I thought it would or because of my preconceived ideas about the way things should be, only to be proven wrong more often than not. The thought makes me incredibly sad.
Diana was a gift that I almost missed once. I met her as we sat side by side, handcuffed at wrist and ankle to each other on a long bus ride. I was being transported away from the grounds of a female prison in a remote part of Ohio that was far from my hometown. I had waited three years for that moment and I wasn’t in the mood to talk. I wanted to look out the window and be lost in my thoughts and take in the view of life on the outside world. The bikes scattered in yards. The hanging baskets of flowers on porches. The Target sign and parking lot. She asked me so many random questions on that ride that I started to wonder if she was doing some type of personality assessment on me.
As events would play out and much to my surprise, we ended up as room mates. She was the total opposite of my introverted self. She was loud, earthy, and free in a way I had never known. And her beliefs were drastically different than the ones I held so close and white knuckled in fear.
In spite of all of the things that made us different and unlikely friends, she became one of my closest friends and one of the people that has loved me the most well in my life.
“You break me and mend me at the same time,” she said to me once. That’s what being loved does. It breaks our walls and the hardened parts of our hearts and it mends them back together at the same time. Mended and left better than we were when it found us.
I almost missed the gift of her. She didn’t look like the friendship I was looking for because the truth is, we are often looking for something similar to ourselves. But she was exactly what I needed.
Sometimes pain is a gift that I leave unopened because I would much rather be comfortable. I don't want to be lonely or in need. I'd rather not confront myself. Not confront my fears. Not confront my vulnerabilities. But leaning into the discomfort always leads to an enlarging of myself and my heart. It burns away the parts that are keeping me small.
I wonder how many other gifts I leave unopened because they don’t look like a gift. At least not in the way I thought they would.
I am in a season of learning to say yes more. Even when I am not sure how it will turn out. And what I’m finding is that every yes is a gift just waiting for me to unwrap it. Beautiful gifts that I cannot imagine having missed.
Don’t miss the gifts in your path. Open your eyes and your heart wider. Lay aside the things that cloud your vision, like former experiences, expectations, and thinking that you always know what you need. You might be missing a gift that is right in front of you.