It is sometime in the late 80’s. Maybe 1990.
The only thing I want for Christmas is a new Nintendo. It has the greatest graphics, the best games, and a Power Pad. A Power Pad, people.
I know we don’t have a whole lot of money, but that doesn’t stop me from asking for it. I tell Santa what to bring me even though I know he is only a seasonal mall employee. I tell it to my parents. More than once. I’m sure I make them feel guilty. But it is the NES and a little guilt has never hurt anyone. I need the Nintendo. I’m not positive but I feel like this may make or break my life.
And then The Day comes. Christmas morning. My brother and I come downstairs in our (probably matching) Christmas pajamas. We read the Christmas story to remind us that this day is all about Jesus, but I am too busy looking for Nintendo shaped boxes to be bothered by all that.
The gift opening begins. One of the first gifts I grab is a thin little box. Much too small for a Nintendo. It says, “Open Me Last.” About the time I find it my little brother notices that he too has an “Open Me Last” gift. It is a monstrosity, about as big as the living room or an elephant or the Titanic.
My heart sinks. There will be no Nintendo this year.
We open the remainder of the presents and (hopefully) I convincingly feign gratitude. I’m sure the Ninja Turtle toys will be awesome and the socks are needed, but in my young mind Christmas hinged on getting what I wanted. Disappointment reigns supreme. Maybe I am being selfish, but I’m really good at being selfish. It comes quite naturally.
When we have unwrapped all but the last two presents, my brother opens his mountain of a gift. It is a FischerPrice tool bench. He is ecstatic. Never happier. He dances. He hammers. This moment is most likely the inspiration for the hymn “Joy to the World.”
And my heart sinks even further. I am teetering at Grinch levels of despair. My brother gets exactly what he wanted and it is “The best Christmas ev-er!” and I get a tie box. I am sure it is filled with something lame and/or embarrassing. Like more underwear.
Reluctantly I undo the bow and the paper. I slip the lid off the box and inside I find a single piece of paper. I read something along the lines of “You have one more gift but you are going to have to work to find it.”
I perk up. I read the paper again. It gives a clue as to where I should look for my gift.
Suddenly, there is hope.
I run from the room and find another note. It sends me to another room and another clue. Room to room I run, eagerly in search of what might happen next. Each step of the way raises my expectations. Each leg of the hunt brings more smiles and anticipation. And then I open the kitchen pantry.
A Nintendo Entertainment System.
Santa, it turns out, came through. My parents are saints. Life is good. Christmas is saved. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Sure, my parents could’ve just wrapped the game system and put it under the tree. They could’ve left it with the other presents but they wanted to give me something more than just a game system. What they gave me was an experience. They gave me a journey.
And it was the experience and the journey that made that Christmas the most memorable I have ever had.
We would do well to remember that sometimes the journey is a gift.
We tend to know what we want and when we want it. When Santa, or worse, God, doesn’t come through for us how we
demand expect we feel rejected. If you are anything like me that can be really frustrating. I tend to think I know best. I know what I need and life would go a whole lot smoother if I just got my way all the time.
But God knows better than that. Thankfully He doesn’t always give me what I want or operate on my time schedule. Thankfully He has much more perspective and insight into what is best for me even when I don’t see it.
So when I don’t get my way or when things seem off kilter or when life hands you a tie box, maybe we need to remember to enjoy the journey. Maybe the journey is the thing that matters more than whatever we find at the end. Maybe what we learn and experience along the way is of far more value to us.
My parents didn’t leave me clues in order to toy with me or drive me crazy, but in order to watch me run and laugh and search.
What if that is what God wants for us? To watch as we enjoy the journey we are on. Maybe there are things He is trying to teach us along the way. Maybe the process is more valuable to our development. Maybe it is in the waiting and the searching that we have the most growth.
Maybe we spend so much time hoping for Nintendos and wealth and security and acceptance and relationships and [inset whatever it is you desire here] that we miss out on what God is doing right now. We miss out on the life we have been invited to live with or without those things.
Hold on to the hope that what you are searching for may just be around the bend or at the next turn or come with the next sun rise. Maybe it comes in ways you never expect. Maybe it comes better than you ever imagined.
Don’t miss out on what is to come because you are so focused on what is not yet. Don’t miss out on what is happening right now because you are so focused on what you want to happen next. Don’t miss the joys and the laughs and the memories that can be made right here and now.
Life is a journey. And the journey is a gift.