Flashback: Christmas 1981
The one thing I really wanted for Christmas that year was a Matchbox Sounds of Service Garage. I had written it carefully in my letter to Santa and come Christmas morning, there it was under the tree. It was carefully wrapped but already assembled with batteries in it, ready to go.
Newsflash: God Ain’t Santa
It took me a long time to figure out that sometimes gifts from God are already whole and complete. But most of the time, it’s like getting an Erector set… one…tiny eighth-of-an-inch screw…at…a…time…and then getting the tools and instruction manual last. As you know, patience is a virtue, it isn’t one of mine. So my conversations with God tend to go a little like this:
God: “Here. Hang on to this.”
God: “It’s important.”
Me: “But what is it?”
God: “You’ll see.”
Me: “Yeah, but when?”
Me: “Can’t You just tell me?”
God: “Nope. You’ll know when you need to know.”
Me: “Do You have any idea how absolutely frigging infuriating You can be?!”
He never answers that last one but I can always feel the Divine Smirk.
The thing about that Matchbox garage is that I knew exactly what I wanted. When it comes to my spiritual life, nine times out of ten, I have no clue what it is I’m asking for. Yeah, there are those times when I know I want wisdom or clarity or courage but more often than not I see something I can’t quite name, something just beyond my understanding and all I know is I want that, whatever that is. And that’s okay because unlike Santa, who requires an exact list, God already knows what the vague and nebulous that is.
Every year, Deacon Ron asks me what gift I will ask of God for Christmas. This is one of those years when what I want is something I can’t quite name. I saw it last week in a little boy. He was about eight years old and was sitting a couple of pews in front of me at Mass. He caught my eye as he was so thoroughly captivated by everything happening on the altar. Meanwhile, his little sister had fallen asleep in their mother’s arms. When it came time to receive Communion, their mother was trying to position the sleeping girl on the pew and while she wasn’t looking, the little boy darted out of the pew. With his hands jammed into the pockets of his winter coat, he put his arms out like airplane wings and ‘flew’ his way up the aisle. Oblivious of the adults piously processing forward, he ran ahead and cut in front of the entire line. After receiving the Body of Christ, he turned and flashed his mortified mother a smile that I will never forget. For a moment, the world stopped spinning beneath me. All I could see was his face and all that I wanted was what I could see in his eyes.
For the life of me, I can’t tell you what I saw. Innocence? Joy? Freedom? Love? Grace? Some concoction of all of those? I don’t know. But I want it. I pointed it out to God in that moment as the world stopped beneath me.
“THAT – right there – that – I don’t know what that is, but You do and I want that more than anything.”
And I felt God smile.
I really hope this isn’t going to be one of those Erector set gifts that is going to come one little piece at a time. Much assembly required and batteries not included…yet. But for some crazy reason, God seems determined to teach me patience.