Something Useful, Something Meaningful, Something Joyful
This is the eighth in a series by our writers and guests regarding spiritual gifts. We hope you enjoy our take on giving and receiving spiritually this Christmas season.
Magi traveled months, perhaps even years to share their gifts with their king. They brought things that meant something: gifts with profound symbolism that often is lost in our celebrations of the Yule season.
Only the book of Matthew records their visit, calling them “wise men from the east.”
Traditions give them all sorts of qualities, even race and names and numbers, but the biblical account merely gives us the barest of details.
And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him.
They had the means, assumed by the lavish and expensive gifts they brought to an unknown baby in a humble house, to have anything they desired. Psalms 72:11 foreshadows, “May all kings fall down before him”– and so we traditionally have three kings, one for each offered gift: Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.
One of great worth, to be traded for something very necessary; one of great meaning, symbolizing and foreshadowing the burial of the King of all; and one of beauty, soothing pleasure infused with joy.
What then ought my gifts be? This week I’ve had a lesson, a scripture reading, two different conversations and one non-LDS question each focusing on the gifts of the spirit. I’ve learned that when the universe bends to place a certain topic in your fingertips and thoughts, it is essential to pay attention.
I’ve often felt that my gifts are difficult to put a finger on. I have a few, but mostly I dabble. I’m not one of those who focuses on one thing and does it brilliantly. I’m a sort of Renaissance woman who is willing to do many things, but none of them worthy of excellence.
So I ponder. Do I have a gift that is useful? One that is meaningful? One that is joyful?
In my self-analysis, I realize I may indeed have one of each. One of my gifts is useful. My spiritual gift is to be willing. I am not one of those who has instant faith. My testimony comes through study, questioning and more questioning; I am, however, willing to find the answers. I am willing to put unanswered questions aside for the time being, and willing to exercise even a “seed of faith” and watch its fruits.
I also have a gift that is meaningful to me. In my patriarchal blessing, it lists only one gift by name as in, “You have the gift of. . .” I have cherished and at times cursed that gift, but I know that I do indeed possess it. It isn’t something I work for, or something that I hone or work at, it is just that, a free gift that I cherish and use when I feel it is best. This is my cherished gift. It nudged me towards my profession, my college degree in psychology and my social interactions.
A spiritual gift that for me is very joyful is the gift of charity. It is easy for me to love people. It is easy to forgive them their imperfections and even their sins. It isn’t something I have to struggle with; my heart was just given to me open. Trust is a completely different topic, however. The “I love you” gift and the “I trust you” gift are not the same.
This doesn’t mean that I never want another tangible gift; I love those little remembrances that pop up in my every-day and I think, “Ah, my mom loves me, I remember when she gave me this. . .” as I use something she made or gave me, and countless other little items that fill my home and life with memory and smiles as well. I guess what I don’t want are obligatory gifts that hold no meaning and are an unwelcome stretch for the giver as well as hard to receive.
Perhaps the magical gifts are the ones that are a representation of something else, a spiritual gift that says, “I know you. I know your likes and your dislikes and your needs and I ache to fill just one of them with this remembrance.” A gift that you can just imagine the giver’s eyes dancing with, “Oh, I just KNOW that s/he’ll LOVE this!” means more than another that is laden with the unspoken, “I didn’t know what to get you, because I’m just not that aware of who you are, but I feel obligated by the holiday to wrap up something, so I’ll toss some money at you with an apology that ‘you can exchange it.’”
With all of this in mind at the sweet nudging of a dear friend, I think I too will focus on my gifts to others being one of the three gifts of the Magi: useful, meaningful, or joyful. I’m tired of things: things to dust, to store, to move, to keep from being broken or moth-bitten or stolen. I crave the spiritual gifts of time, adventures, memories, gratitude, safety, and peace. This year I’m hoping to look beyond the tangible to the origin of the celebration and reach deeper to find lasting meaning.
- What are the gifts that you feel you have?
- What have others told you have, but you aren’t quite convinced of?
- What do you hope the season will bring for you and your family spiritually?