Realizing What The Gifts Are For

Everything we have and are is a total, complete gratuitous gift from God. We know this at some simple level but actually accepting and believing this at the practical and emotional level of particulars is often far more difficult.

It’s easy to see something we’ve accomplished or believe we can accomplish as something that was attainable by our own power, as something owed or deserved to us, not as something gratuitous. Sometimes we even admit that things or abilities or opportunities that have been given to us are gifts, but in a move of continuing pride we often wrongly think we know what that gift is for.

The truth is we don’t really know all that there is to know about God’s providential planning. Yes we can catch glimpses. Yes, sometimes we can see it in retrospect. But we can’t assume that we know what God wills for the gifts He places in our lives.

That’s why God often has to take away the gift in order for us to realize why He gave it to us in the first place. It’s easy to misinterpret the gift on the basis of pride as something other than the true reason that gift is in our lives. It’s easy to see the gift as something wholly in our power, something to use for our own advancement. It’s easy to to see the gift as something sufficient for our happiness, for our life, our career, our vocation.

But placed beside our ultimate final end we have to realize that all God’s gifts apart from grace, again whether they be abilities, opportunities, friendships or the like, are but means towards our continuing journey, towards disposing us to receive grace, to receiving, ultimately the theological virtues into our soul and ultimately the Beatific Vision.

If you’re still attached to pride it can be difficult to accept this. It’s easy to see the gifts as far closer to ends in themselves. It can be easy then to get attached to the gifts in themselves.

And that’s why God again often has to take them away in order for us to see beyond them (“beyond the picture through the picture” perhaps as Robert Frost might say). For the most amazing thing about God’s beneficient giving is that even our deficient relationship to His gifts often still works out to our betterment and perfection.

God giving the gift, our failing to perfectly perceive and use it, and then God’s temporarily taking it away often all work together to help show us that the gift was for some other purpose in our life than what we first assumed.

This realization in my own life was one of the most fundamentally transformative as I realized in one weekend how on all sorts of levels I had misapprehended gifts, friendships, and abilities in my own life, perceiving them wholly on my own interpretations, my own terms, and my own power alone. The gifts were all interconnected, their true purpose all staring me in my face the whole time, but it wasn’t until an incredible moment of realization that resentment growing me turned into rejoicing when I saw the larger gift of God’s working in my life through them… God had been working something in my life through my attachment to them, even though I hadn’t realized it. 

A new picture was being painted. Weird incidental meetings, events, circumstances from my past all clicked together. I realized on a certain practical level the larger story of God’s beneficient working in my life (and using me to work and affect other people’s lives).

God is a beneficient story and all the world is His story.

We say it, but we often don’t fully realize it. I don’t fully yet, and none of us fully will until the Beatific vision. But a moment of realization that the story was out there in my life being woven by God’s gifts in a way my pride had blinded me to made me realize for the frst time that I was part of this story.

And we all are part of the master Story-Teller’s story.

Thinking of everything around you as having a meaning that you don’t yet fully understand, as a gratuitous gift of God waiting for your full cooperation is (well a cliche) but a pretty nice way to live.

It’s all a gift. It’s all a gift. It’s all a gift.

Gaudeamus Hodie (some of you will get it and those two words oft-repeated, are connected to this realization in my own life…)

Gaudeamus Hodie!