Monday, November 11, 2013

“Gifts that Humble Us” by Garris Elkins

In the late 1990’s, Jan and I lived in Berlin, Germany.  Berlin was our base of operation because of the abundance of travel options the city provided. We worked and traveled in the nations that comprised the old East European Communist Bloc.

Our primary assignment was to encourage and strengthen our family of churches in that region and to explore new relationships.  For our four years in Europe we lived on airplanes and trains.  Our travel took us to some beautiful places, but the most beautiful part of our assignment were the people we met along the way.

We were contacted to travel to Budapest, Hungary to meet with a group of people who were voicing an interest in relating to our church family.  Upon our arrival in Hungary we met this group and spent the next several days building relationships and teaching. One young woman attended every meeting.  She was articulate and well educated.

On our last evening in Budapest the young woman brought us a gift. The gift was a beautiful glass bowl. As we unwrapped the gift she began to explain the story of the bowl and how it ended up in her grand parents possession. 

She shared that her family had fled to Hungary from Nazi Germany during World War II.  In their overland escape they were only able to bring with them what they could carry during their overland hike to freedom.  Among the articles they carried was this beautiful glass, serving bowl.  The bowl was constructed in two parts with the head of the bird functioning as the handle.

We were all taken with such a story – a story much like a Hollywood movie script. She said her grandparents were so thankful that I had come to Hungary to share God’s love that they wanted to give me this gift as their appreciation for our visit.

I had been in similar situations before where gifts were given by grateful people, but this gift carried with it a significance I had never experienced before in all my travels. 

I thought of this gift being carefully wrapped, treasured and carried over the many miles of a dangerous foot passage.  I thought of what this bowl meant to her family as part of their heritage.  Of all the things they could bring with them – they chose this beautiful bowl.  And now they wanted to give it to me.

In the moments between her telling me the story of this prized possession and my unwrapping it, I had to make a decision.  If I received this gift I would have to carry it and prize it for the rest of my life.  If I declined the gift I would demean an unparalleled act of sacrificial giving.  In great respect, I received the gift.  Today, 15 years later, that bowl sits in a place of honor in our home.

Over the years, I have tried to think of what God was saying to me through the gift of the glass bowl.  I was obviously honored to receive such a gift, but the greatest thing that happened to me was the humbling effect the gift brought.  I am not sure I would have given such a gift.  I would have been afraid I was giving away irreplaceable family memories.

The night I received the bowl, I was privileged to be in the presence of something rare – the giving of something priceless.  As I think of my life, I wonder what I have given away that is priceless.  As I think through my possessions none of them carry the story and passion of that glass bowl.

Then I realized I do carry a priceless gift – I carry the presence of Jesus Christ.  Every believer does. Each time I love another person in His name or share His truth, I am giving away something priceless.  I am giving away God. This gift of God’s love is priceless because it cannot be purchased with human currency or effort.  It must simply be received and released.  The greatest value of a gift is expressed by giving it away.

Each time we love in His name we are giving a gift that will leave the recipient feeling humbled because they are holding something beyond human value.

Tonight, I held again that glass bowl.  I held it with the gentleness and respect due its history because I know it survived a dangerous trek to ultimately end up in my hands.  That bowl, like our lives, is on assignment to show others what real love looks like.

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