The Gift Shame

Gift Shame

Something about gifts makes me feel ashamed. And it seems God wanted to point that out.

First a friend let me borrow her car for three months. Every time I drove, it told me I was a mooch who couldn’t handle my own problems.

Then a relative gave towards my husband’s student loans. It felt like watching my whipping boy.

The triple punch came when my parents offered to finance a house.

“I’d buy a dive and stay in the one livable room for as long as it took to fix the house on my own before I’d hold up your money,” I told my mom.

“I know you would, and that’s ridiculous,” she replied.

Matt and I can just wait until we can do it on our own. Why would we burden someone else? The thought of my parents giving me money, even just for a few months, made stoic me swallow tears at work.

I cannot be a burden. It’s one of those principles that was hardwired since birth.

“We’ve helped your other siblings, Mary,” my dad said, “We’re going to end up helping you when you get a house, so that’s a non-issue.”

It’s not a non-issue. I couldn’t speak for fear of crying. Tying up my parents’ money is selfish. There are two options, inconvenience myself or someone else. I don’t deserve a gift. I steadied the lip tremors and breathed back tears.

“I saw how much work you did raising all us kids,” I said. “And I’ve always just made it a goal not to burden you any more.”

“That’s silly, Mary,” my dad laughed, “That’s like saying I saw you already went on a lot of vacations to the Bahamas, so I decided not to burden you with another one. We love you kids.”

A light of truth pricked through the smothering shame. I guess God feels like my dad.

Gifts have always made me feel awkward and ashamed. When I asked God to save me at age four, I knew I needed him but I hated that I did.

I hated that I sinned continually and needed continual saving. I knew I didn’t deserve God’s love and forgiveness. I didn’t understand how he could love someone so utterly undeserving. I felt like the king’s pet worm. I just wanted to burry myself and disappear.

But, God has something in common with my parents. Maybe God wants to see me accept forgiveness just like a father loves seeing his child ecstatic about a new bike.

I know it’s true, but I’m still the kid who says, “I’m sorry, Dad, you didn’t have to get me that. I could have earned the money eventually.”

Photo credit Helen Titsch.


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