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The Unwanted Gift

How a friend's gesture opened my eyes to God's grace.

I slipped the bow from the package and started tearing at the paper. Obviously, the gift had been professionally wrapped at the store. The paper edges were neatly folded under, secured by an invisible layer of scotch tape.

As the red and green paper fell to the floor, I lifted the lid off the box and pulled away the tissue. My breath caught, my heart sank, my fingers froze (and I have to admit, my eyes probably rolled). Something very "bear-y" peered at me from within the box. It was meant to be dear and whimsical, but in my opinion it was a bit silly. A stuffed animal? Hmmm.

At 40-something I was more than a little skeptical. Was this supposed to be funny? Was it supposed to trigger a memory of some inside joke or shared memory? As it was, this stuffed bear was a strange gift for someone like me. I'm not a bear kind of person. I don't collect them, I don't decorate with them, I don't have any kind of hobby or habit that would suggest I'm into stuffed bears.

I looked around the room at the other faces at this Christmas gift exchange. Not knowing who had drawn my name and not wanting to offend anyone, I managed to show a decent degree of gratitude. But I wondered about this strange gift. Why a bear? What could the giver have been thinking? I took the bear home and plunked it on my living room couch where it sat all year. But I noticed that visitors seemed drawn to it, lifting it to their laps, caressing its ears as they chatted.

I also discovered there are some very "bear-y" people in life. In fact, more folks seemed to be "bear-y" than "un-bear-y."

The next Christmas, I was wrapping gifts for needy kids. I stuffed candy and socks and small toys in a box and then scurried to another room to fetch more tissue paper. On my way back, the bear caught my eye. I gently raised him from his plush seat on my sofa and tucked him deep into the box.

That was it. Suddenly I understood that this little bear had been given to me to receive. My reception of this gift gave the giver joy. My passing this gift onto someone else gave me joy. I didn't have to find a logical fit for this gift to bring happiness. I didn't have to make sense of it. I just had to give it as freely as it had been given to me.

In Matthew 10:8 Jesus gives his disciples instructions as he sends them out to share his love and grace with the world. He says, "Freely you have received, freely give."

God holds out the gift of grace to us. There are moments when his gift makes perfect sense. It fits. A check in the mail when you're broke. A phone call when you're lonely. God's peace when you're troubled. There are other moments when his gift of grace seems an odd gesture. Forgiveness when you still feel wretched. A kind word from a friend when you've shown unkindness. A hug from a child when you've lost your temper.

Our job is to freely receive the gift of grace from the Giver. It takes open eyes and an open heart to receive the grace that God sends to us through our friends and families. But when we receive, then the gift does its wonderful work. Once the gift has changed us then?and only then?we can freely share the gift with others.

Elisa Morgan is president of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International. Her most recent book is When Husband & Wife Become Mom and Dad, with Carol Kuykendall (Zondervan). For information about a mops group in your area, call (800) 929-1287.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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