Huh. A gift? Some part of me, separate from what I can do, separate from what I make, accomplish, produce, serve... is a "gift"? As silly as it sounds, that felt like news to me, even though I could probably write an entire essay from my head on the topic. But I'm not talking about intellectual assent these days. If you've been around Presbyterians long enough, you can give a dissertation on grace, on innate worth, complete with footnotes and bibliography, but I'm not writing a paper here. I'm sharing from my (silly, unrestrained, "passionate") heart.
What wakes me up in the middle of night, or early in the morning is not my list of things to BE, it's my list of things to DO, particularly in this season, when the Christmas presents that haven't been purchased, (or haven't been wrapped), the cards that haven't been written, the cookies that haven't been made, the flannel pj pants that haven't been sewed, the mittens and scarves that haven't been knit, the pile of papers on the desk that are still un-sorted, the made-from-scratch dinner that didn't happen, the petition that I didn't sign, the homeless person that I didn't give to... are fairly howling at me.
And then there's the stuff I've done that I should not have: the thoughtless comment, the lost-temper moment, the private thought that should have been kept private, the selfish impulse that should have been checked. In the confessional prayers in the Anglican "Book of Common Prayer", there's a line that pretty much covers it for me: "Forgive us for what we have done and for what we have left un-done" Yup. I tend to think in pretty existential terms: I am what I do (or leave un-done).
Yesterday (before I caught wind of the tragedy in Connecticut--that's a subject for another day) I was swirling in my own ridiculously petty sea of guilt and self-condemnation over my un-done stuff and my should-have-left-undone stuff. So, I poured out my anxious heart (in writing, as has been our long custom) to an old friend, one who has known me more than 25 years. And in his inimitable style, he took the focus off my "doing" and reminded me that he sees the value of my "being". He wrote:
You are worthy.
It still amazes me how many times that Grace--un-earned favor, un-earned love--has to bop me over the head with an angel's wing before I can wrap my mind around it. It's a good thing that I am so surrounded with people (angels) who are so willing to keep reminding me.. they might want to check those edge-feathers for over-use injuries, though...
So, this morning, when my swirling thoughts (and an antsy dog who always seems ready to "do" in the wee hours of the morning) woke me, I decided to use the extra awake time for some "being" time. I laced up my sneakers and headed out to the ridgetop that has often been my outdoor practice room for singing over the past three years. As I got to my solitary spot, the sun was just coming over the shoulder of Mount Diablo, setting the frost-covered ridge alight with sparkles. I stood there, drew a good singer's breath, made a few happy sounds, and realized that I was in the presence of another gift. I didn't do it, I didn't make it happen, I didn't earn it. It was just there, as it is there every morning: another invitation to just BE, to breathe, to pray for those I love, to love those I meet. It's all a gift, and I didn't have to clip the coupon from the Sunday paper, go get it, or make it, or earn it.
At Christmas time, we celebrate that ultimate gift -- The Being of the universe, willing to live for a time, reduced to our human form: to BE with us-- "Emmanuel", which means "God with us". Baby Jesus in the manger, the man Jesus living among us for a short time and an eternity with us in Heaven. Being with us.
And to think that among the people who surround me with their being, there's someone who thinks that my sappy, overly-expressive way of being is a gift, and someone else who can remind me that I'm worthy and loved, regardless of what I do or fail to do...? My Christmas stocking is full to overflowing this year.
And, no thanks, I don't need a gift receipt for that... I have no intention of returning or exchanging it. I might see if I can re-gift it a few times, though.