The last couple of months have been the first spring that Teresa, Windham and I have spent in our new home here in Mount Airy. Among the joys of this experience has been the pleasure of watching and waiting to see what types of plants will end up growing in our yard. The previous owners, you see, were much more skilled in the gardening arts than we ever hope to be. As a result, we’ve been able to sit back and observe as roses and irises and ferns and hastas (and ivy’s that I can’t even identify) have come bursting forth into verdant life.
It’s quite a gift, when you stop and think about it—all this beauty given to us with hardly any effort or investment on our part. And like many gifts that come to us so easily, this one would be easy to take for granted. But I’m reminded that God frequently cautions his people not to overlook such unexpected gifts – maybe because He gives so many of them. Years ago, when Moses was preparing to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land, he told them: “When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Deut. 6:10-12).
Church life, it occurs to me, is filled with many examples of these unexpected (and unearned) blessings. We study the scriptures with Bibles that we didn’t translate, using lessons that we didn’t write. We worship with songs that we didn’t compose in sanctuaries (that in many cases) we didn’t build. When we become church members we enter into a ready-made family—a deep well of relationships overflowing with love and support and encouragement—that existed long before we realized how much we needed it. And most important, of course, we receive peace with God through Jesus Christ by virtue of a sacrifice we could never make and a grace that we could never fully fathom.
The question we need to ask, however, is “What will we do with these unexpected gifts?” I must confess that because I had absolutely nothing to do with providing the colorful plants in my yard, it’s tempting just to ‘let them go.’ But it would be such a shame to let such life and beauty go to waste. Therefore, even though it takes some effort, I’m trying to cultivate them. I’m trying to keep them weeded and pruned. I’m trying to learn how they need to be fed and tended. And who knows? Maybe someday, I’ll be able to leave some unexpected gifts for someone else.
What are you doing with your unexpected gifts…especially the ones that you receive from being part of our church family?
May God prevent us from taking His gifts for granted. And since we’ve been blessed to be a blessing, may we always be eager to do the work that’s necessary to preserve and nurture these gifts for those who come after us.