When gifts hurt

Sometimes it is a good thing to give away something that hurts. I have given two such gifts in the last decade.

First, I sent the small New Testament that I studied from, read personally, and used in the pulpit to someone as a gift. I wore that Bible out. Battered, beat up, filled with little notes. I sent it to a man who lives across the world from me, geographically, philosophically, culturally. I don’t expect he will ever read it. I didn’t send it to him for that. I assumed that, as he is a man of extraordinary taste, he would recognize the inherent beauty of any well-used tool that was once in the possession of someone who worked with it for their living and life.

A voice spoke to me from within. I shit you not. “Send your Bible to ____.” So I did.

Tragically for me, since I was a pastor I had become very accustomed to ignoring any such voice. Ironic, I know. But in this case the voice was pretty strong and broke through all of that. I still miss that old Bible though.

The second was when I gave my only copy (facsimile) of the gospels from the Saint John’s Bible away on impulse. I gave it to someone I love knowing it would hurt. And it hurts me still. At the time that was the only Bible I could read slowly, being forced to by the calligraphy, and sometimes I could almost feel like I was reading it for the first time.

I miss my Saint John’s Bible. However, I have not read the Bible in 6 years, 7 months, and about 2 weeks. So when the day comes that I read it again – if that day ever comes and I am making no plans for it – I have a feeling I’ll know what it is like to read it for the first time.

Oh wait. I also gave away a big Iron Giant toy that I had in my office once. I forgot about that. Gave it to a little boy. Really regretted it, but there you go. Sometimes it’s good to give these things away. The memory of them and the missing of them makes them alive in ways they were not when you owned them.

  • Ellen Tucker

    Wow. It’s like you really took the advice to “go and sell all you have and give it to the poor [I’m guessing in this case it’s people you felt were in some way needy in spirit] and then come follow me.” You are REALLY following Jesus into the desert. You are so whole-hearted, Gordon. I thank you for the fact that you continue to write and give us occasional posts. The trouble with wandering in the desert, or reestablishing the church as a place you drop in to do your own private journeying (as described in an earlier post) is that we still need community, don’t we? Even though it’s hard for people within the church to really listen to each other, it’s even harder, often, for those outside the church to listen to each other. Well, that’s just problem # 1. Problem # 2 is that even though the witness the church brings to the world is often corrupted by the world or by our own worldly fears, the world would be even worse off without the church’s witness. Wouldn’t it?