All good gifts

hillbillyfishingThere’s this vague recollection I have of a comedy skit where Adam is in the garden with God and names the animals. The Adam character is a trifle lazy and, as memory serves, hillbilly-ish. In between laughs from the audience, Adam makes quick work of naming the animals; e.g., all birds are “flappers”, fish are “swimmers”, waterfowl are “paddlers”, and so on. I half expected God to point out that waterfowl are both paddlers and flappers, but He must have figured hillbilly Adam couldn’t handle such profound revelation. I thought maybe it was a scene from the musical comedy Cotton Patch Gospel but Adam wasn’t a character in that one. Anyhow, the way my mind works, I can’t help but remember that skit and chuckle to myself whenever I read the account of creation in Genesis.

Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field… (Genesis 2:19-20 ESV)

It’s one of many passages in scripture that leads me to wonder “now why did God do that?” After all, wouldn’t God, who is omniscient, already know what Adam would name the animals? Perhaps He simply wanted to hang out with Adam or teach him a thing or two?

Inasmuch as Elohim has created us in His image (Genesis 1:26), I don’t think it’s unreasonable to examine our own healthy loving relationships for some insight into the Creator’s relationship with us. Take ‘omniscience’ for example. Though neither my wife nor I claim omniscience, twenty years of marriage have allowed us to know one another very well; even to the point that, with relative certainty, we know each other’s thoughts, feelings, and choices in a matter. What that means in practical terms, there is little surprise between us any more. That doesn’t mean we’re bored with each other, rather, true to the Messiah’s word, we have become “one flesh”. And while our thoughts, feelings, and choices are often predictable to each other, we still take great pleasure in each other’s company. It is my joy to share in her happiness and her pleasure to share in my creativity. And of course, our hearts swell with gladness when we share how the Spirit has met our needs for the day. We delight in each other.

Strangely, the Father delights in us as well, in spite of ourselves. If ever there were any doubt how well the Father knows us – whether we can hide anything from Him – read Psalm 139. Like it or not, we’re an open book with the Father. To that end, David concludes Psalm 139 with an invitation to God: “Search me, O God … and see if there be any wicked way in me.” Not that God needs such invitation, rather, David’s conclusion is more of a surrender and declaration of his cooperation with God to identify and root out all that might be displeasing to God. Still, it blows my mind that the Father delights in us.

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17 ESV)

Jehovah taketh pleasure in them that fear him, In those that hope in his lovingkindness. (Psalms 147:11 ASV)

Perhaps it’s difficult for me to believe that He delights in me because of the way – the era in which I grew up. Old TV shows like “Father Knows Best”, “Leave It To Beaver”, “Ozzie and Harriet”, and “Dennis the Menace” were typical of American families back in the day. Picture the stay-at-home mom, the working dad, and kids sent out to play when they got home from school. When dad came home from work, he reclined with the paper and mom delivered the daily report. Kids came in for supper and greeted dad who meted out the discipline, kudos, and advice as warranted. Fathers in that day seldom played with their kids; that was typically mom’s job. So the oldest child needs a friend to play with? Have another child.

Lest there be any question: this is not a “Daddy Dearest” expose! My earthly father loves me; of that I am convinced. But it was not until I became a teen and started driving, that we spent much time together, one on one. It was under a car, removing and replacing the automatic transmissions I destroyed by hot-rodding, that we began spending time together.

With regard to giving love, my earthly father was and is exceedingly generous. Gifts, allowances, and rewards were his primary love-language with his children. He even made me several classical guitars and a steel string acoustic to play. Yes, built; like a luthier. Not surprising that I looked to my Heavenly Father to demonstrate His love for me with gifts, just like my earthly father. Absent gifts from God, I perceived Him to be ignoring me, even displeased and angry with me.

Consequently, the Heavenly Father, who “disciplines those He loves” (Proverbs 3:12), allowed me to experience Job-like devastation, that I might seek HIM in the midst of ruin, and know Him more than simply a giver. It was, as one popular adage goes: to “seek His face, not His hands”. With the destruction of my first marriage, losing my children, my home, then my job and a health crisis, only the Father was there for me with unconditional love. Throughout several years of healing and drawing closer to Him through the Spirit, there was but one gift from Him; my wife.

The difficult truth is, the Job treatment was necessary to show me more of God’s character; specifically God of mercy, healing, promise, faithfulness and restoration. In the process, He taught me to value above all else, His presence and His truth. It was not until I learned to receive the love of God by means other than tangible gifts, that He resumed such giving.

cups2Make no mistake; I enjoy His surprise gifts. A set of old melmac raffia coffee cups like my grandmother had back in the 50’s; a dream guitar I had no hope of owning; an old tractor and implements to match. All these were given with the unmistakable signature of God’s doing. But I’ve learned the better gifts, are those of His presence; one on one time with my Maker, wherein we delight in each other. And times when He simply adds to the conversation between my wife and I. A few nights ago we were soaking in our deck spa marveling at the stars when we spotted the International Space Station (ISS) orbiting overhead. Observing that the ISS represents one of man’s greatest achievements, we praised the far greater feats of God. As if to say “Amen and Amen”, He made a shooting star to pass overhead, perpendicular to and high above the ISS, thereby forming a cross.

Everything good comes from God. Every perfect gift is from him. These good gifts come down from the Father who made all the lights in the sky. But God never changes like the shadows from those lights. He is always the same. (James 1:17 ERV)

More than any coffee cup, guitar or tractor, the gift of His salvation and ongoing relationship with Him is the greatest gift of all. And being brutally honest about who I am before God, there can be no doubt that He delights in me for no other reason than He is who He is. God. I AM. Name above all names. Worthy of eternal praise.