On the one hand, I was intensely focused on my shopping list--what to buy for whom, where are the best deals, etc. And I will be honest. I was enjoying myself immensely in the process. I enjoy buying the ones around me something that they really want. I enjoy the joy I see on their faces when they open their presents. I enjoy trying to find something for the best price. I enjoy the anticipation that comes with opening gifts at Christmas. I remember all of those feelings growing up. How exciting it was to receive something you really wanted.
On the other hand, a tinge of something--I am still trying to figure out if it is guilt or conviction or a bit of both--also clouded the enjoyment. As I filled my shopping cart with stupid toys, gadgets and computer technology, I would have thoughts like: I wonder how that little girl in Uganda that is fighting for her life is doing. Or, right now, at this very moment, there are children dying because there is no food or clean water available where they live. I would look down at the things I was buying and I would just feel sick to my stomach.
I have this struggle every Christmas. Every year I say, 'okay, we are going to do things radically different this year.' Yet, when push comes to shove, we do things exactly the same. And we don't even do many presents compared to the majority of parents. Our children each get three presents: one Santa gift, one gift from us and one from a sibling. Oh, and we do stocking stuffers. As I've discussed the 'gift giving' struggle with others around me, they often complain about the amount of gifts given by extended family--that it is just too much. I am very grateful that in our family, this is not a problem. They receive one to two presents from Eric's parents, a small gift from his grandparents and one from the 'cousin' drawing. So it is definitely not overdone. On my side of the family, it is even less: one gift from the 'family drawing'.
So, I have been pondering--are those questions that kept coming into my head while I shopped conviction from God or was it 'false' guilt that the enemy is constantly throwing at us to quench our joy? Or--is it a little bit of both?
As I have been praying and pondering over this conflict in my heart, here is what I feel the Lord is teaching me so far--
- Yes, three presents for each of your children is a small amount comparatively to others in your country. Yet what your children receive comparatively to the children around the world is immensely more. Remember that. Don't forget it. AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT the children who are starving and dying.
- Stop focusing so much on the number of presents and pray for My guidance in this matter. The number doesn't really matter--it's really a matter of the heart. For 'Where your heart is so will your treasure be.'
- Are you seeing discontentment and ungratefulness in the heart of your children? Is your gift giving causing idols to form in their hearts?
- Are your children tied to their possessions? Are you tied to your possessions? Would you be grouchy if you were stripped of all of the comforts you have been given? From where does your joy really and truly stem from?
- Do your children ever have to sacrifice anything to help someone in need? Maybe you need to make that happen. Are you making them aware of the needs of those in poverty? Do they realize how blessed they are?
- Is your joy at Christmas truly from the simplicity of the cross or is your joy in the Christmas decorations, the lights and all of the traditions. None of these former things are wrong in themselves. The question, sweet daughter, is not that you desire these things but do you desire them too much?
Youch. Oh, it's painful to look at what truly motivates my heart. So, what's the verdict? Is it conviction or false guilt? I think it's a bit of both. So, I am trying to throw off the false guilt, yet see my sin for what it is--utterly filthy, no good sin. The good thing is that God isn't finished with me or you or my children yet. It is a refining process. I'm right smack dab in the middle of this one, that is for sure.