I had my birthday earlier this month, and in the days leading up to the auspicious occasion my three-year old daughter was quite attentive to the event. “I’m going to make you a cake for your birthday, Mommy,” she said at least half a dozen times. And: “I’m going to make you a card for your birthday.” As well as, “Mommy, for your birthday I’m going to give you a necklace!”
When the day arrived, she asked her dad to accompany her to our bedroom where she assessed the jewelry arrayed atop my bureau – the earrings and necklaces I’d lately worn and not yet returned to the jewelry box – and made a selection. Then she trooped back downstairs to where I was eating birthday breakfast pancakes and handed me the gift. “Mom, here’s the necklace I’m giving you for your birthday!” she exclaimed. I expressed my pleasure and gratitude and, of course, donned the necklace. My husband and I exchanged a smile; “it’s the thought that counts,” he said.
Indeed. My daughter understood enough to realize that birthdays are about making a person feel special and presenting her with a gift; she was enthusiastic to get in on the action. That the gift she selected for me was something already belonging to me (a Christmas gift from her father to me, years prior) clearly had not occurred to her. Oblivious re-gifting. On subsequent occasions when I’ve worn the necklace she chose, she happily observes: “Mommy, you’re wearing the necklace I gave you for your birthday!”
One thing that has warmed me about this incident, beyond the obvious cuteness of the gesture and dearness of a three-year old’s heart, is the picture it paints of us and God. God gives us everything we have – our money and possessions, our homes, our spouses, our children, the food we eat and clothes we wear – and we give back to him from among these gifts. Often we feel so noble and thoughtful, self-sacrificing even, when we offer these things to him. But in reality, anything we give Him is something he first gave us – whether through prayers of surrender, a tithe, a material donation, or the like. The truth is that it’s impossible for us to give Him something that didn’t start out as His (since, “naked we entered the world and naked we’ll leave it.” )
I loved seeing the illustration so clearly through my daughter’s sweet and enthusiastic present. May I return my Father’s things to Him so happily and so diligently, gifts willingly offered to bring Him delight.