Almost two years ago, my friend Mary and her husband, John, went to Ukraine to meet their new son and bring him home. Igor had grown up in rather frugal conditions in the orphanage, so he was pretty blown away by his first Christmas in the States last year. Even now, a year later, he’s still trying to wrap his mind around the extravagant traditions in his new home.
“We get gifts and stockings?” he kept wondering aloud to his older brothers.
I asked Mary if Igor had any special requests for Christmas this year.
“Yes,” she told me with a smile. “He was really excited about the idea of getting an apple in his stocking.”
Mary and John were happy to oblige. They’re his parents, after all, and those gifts are just one of many ways they delight in showing their son how much he’s loved.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s gifts to us, despite how undeserving we are. He puts big gifts for us under the tree—or, more aptly, nailed to the tree—things like salvation and forgiveness and reconciliation with him.
He could stop there, and the gift would be sufficient for all of eternity. But that’s not the extent of his generosity. He also stuffs our stockings, showering us with bonus gifts that have no purpose other than to show us his delight in us, to reveal his extravagant love.
The other night as I was climbing into bed, I was greeted by Daniel’s stuffed rat on my pillow. Now lest you doubt my husband’s romanticism, I should assure you that where we come from, “Rat” is actually a term of endearment.
Daniel and I discovered early on when we were dating that among other startling family similarities (for instance: his dad is one of 13 siblings; my dad is one of 12), both our dads called us “Rat” or “Little Rat” as an affectionate nickname.
As we got ready for bed that night, Daniel said with a chuckle, “You know, every time our dads called us Rat growing up, God must have just smiled. Like he was saying, Don’t worry, guys—I’ve got this one.”
My mind wandered back to all those years when I’d been waiting for Mr. Right (as I mentioned in this post), wondering if God would answer my prayers, when all along he had the perfect person for me. Even down to the weird nickname.
I wonder how many other times I doubt God, thinking he doesn’t see my pain, when actually he’s just waiting for the precise moment to reveal the gift he has all planned out. Don’t worry, he must be saying. I’ve got this one.
God gives us those little bonus gifts along the way—stocking stuffers, if you will—not because he owes us anything, but to show us how much he loves us. To remind us that he has our lives covered, even if we can’t see the whole picture yet.
He does, after all, love his little rats.