'Tis the season for bustle of last minute shopping and panic of making sure you've checked your list (possibly twice) of to-dos to make sure nothing slipped through the cracks. The mad dash to the end of the year always comes as a surprise to most of us even though we know that it happens every year. We rush from one Christmas concert to another Christmas party while filling any time that we have in between with the dreaded side of giving which is actually buying the gifts. You have to find the correct size or make sure the toy is the right brand all the while making sure the gift isn't going to throw the rest of your holiday budget out the window. By the time it comes to open the gifts, you are just glad that you have a few minutes of rest while they unwrap and enjoy. I'm not trying to sound cynical by any means because I truly believe those few moments of joy that you bring to someone's face make all the hustle and bustle worth it. That is the moment that we show our love by giving them the gift of course, but also another gift that is a little less emphasized; our time.
This isn't to say that you are supposed to record the time spent in finding, buying, and wrapping each gift and write the total on each present. That would kind of boastful in certain instances and shameful in others, but all around it would just be pretty weird. The truth is that our time isn't something that we wrap up and present to the person along with the gift, but it is is something that we give with each gift. Whether it's something as small as a stocking-stuffer or as large as a new car with one of those gigantic red bows on it (seriously, how does someone get on that person's list), we give our time with each gift. The part that I find interesting though is that when we put time into something it usually means that we care about the recipient, so when we invest our time in a gift we are showing our love. To use the greatest scriptural example of love, it says in John 3:16 that "God so loved the world that he gave". I'm not saying that monetary gifts equal how much you love someone by any means. However, if we follow this train of thought it becomes pretty clear. Those that we love the most, we are going to give the most time. How much time, whether it's in gifts or just being available, have you given to those that you love the most?
Our requirements became pretty simple when the Pharisees asked Jesus what is most important for us here on Earth in Matthew 22. Our first priority is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. This time of year we have a little help in doing that when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. This should be the true reason for the season and where we give most of our time. However, that wasn't our only requirement. He finished up his answer by saying we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We do great with the gifts, but what about our time? When was the last time that you had a conversation with someone where your only priority was showing them love? My personal challenge and now wish for you this holiday season is that we give those that we love a little more time this year than we have in the past. You never know what you might learn about that person or how your words of love might truly change them for the better. Make it a point to give the one thing you can't really get back - your time.
Anna Marie Quindlen, American author, journalist, and New York Times columnist who won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1992, was giving the commencement address at Villanova University on June 23, 2000. She told this story...
I found one of my best teachers on the boardwalk at Coney Island maybe 15 years ago. It was December and I was doing a story about how the homeless survive in the winter months. He and I sat on the edge of the wooden supports dangling our feet over the side and he told me about his schedule. Panhandling the boulevard when the summer crowds were gone, sleeping in church when the temperature went below freezing, hiding from the police amidst the Tilt-A-Whirl and the Cyclone and some of the other seasonal rides. But he told me that most of the time he stayed on the boardwalk facing the water just the way we were sitting now even when it got cold and he had to wear his newspapers after he read them. I asked him why. Why didn't he go to one of the shelters? Why didn't he check himself into the hospital for detox? He just stared out at the ocean and said, "Look at the view, young lady. Look at the view." Every day since, in some little way, I try to do what he said. I try to look at the view. That's the last thing I have to tell you today. Words of wisdom from a man with not a dime in his pocket, no place to go, and nowhere to be. Look at the view. You'll never be disappointed.
I must concur with Mrs. Quindlen, the view is always staggering. Sometimes it’s staggeringly beautiful and other times it ranges to the other extreme, but it is always staggering. I’ve found the devil specializes in altering the view of God’s people. We can have blessings upon blessings around us, but we may be led to look at what is wrong or failing. We may be at church and only see who’s not there and miss all those who gave the effort to actually be there with us. We may be at our job and only see the cliques or the politics and fail to see the blessing of just having a job. We may be at home and agonize over little tasks that aren’t done and fail to see the family that God has blessed us with. It’s way too easy to miss the forest in the trees.
This can only change with a purposeful alteration to the way we think and what we keep our eyes on. The next time you’re tempted to be negative while in the house of God, stop it and instead look around a find something or someone to be thankful for. The next time you find yourself “going to the grouch” at home, stop it and instead find a family member and do something impulsive that will make a forever memory. The next time you find yourself finding fault on your job, stop it and instead find someone who you know works as hard (or harder) than you do and let them know that you appreciate them.
Maybe we need to stop looking for faults, shortcomings, and failures and just learn to enjoy the view. Maybe what you’re looking at or the way you’re looking at it is making you blind to the all the wonderful things and people who were there all along. Grumpy Guses and Debbie Downers are a dime a dozen, but someone who can live on the bright side of life is a blessing and an encouragement. What are you choosing to look at?
Look at the view,