Strange gifts. They are inevitable. Every one of us has been the receiver of an "uh, what is this for?" gift. I don't have any ugly sweaters, a chia pet, or a clapper for you. And you may not be able to use these gifts today, but I pray that, in time, you will find their usefulness and value.
Why a baby's smile? Because it is unconditional. A baby smiles at you out of purity. She has no ulterior motives. His grin is not attempting to woo you into something that will hurt you. A baby's eyes are gentle, and kind, and sweet. When a baby sees you, and smiles at you, it is out of the purest of joy in her heart. It is because you, in all your brokenness, bring her happiness.
Gift two: I give you a closet.
When I was a child, before I disclosed about being raped, I ran away from home. It was a well-planned escape, as well planned as any nine year old can be. After my parents went to sleep, I would sneak out the back door and walk the mile and half to my BFF's house. She would make sure the door was unlocked and I could come in the back.
I had ridden my bike but never walked to her house before. It took longer than I expected. It was dark. The sound of the crickets and frogs in the night was frightening to me. But I was also excited to start my new life. Twice as a car came down the country road I hid in the ravine, like a criminal on the run. By the time I got to her house my heart was pounding out of my chest.
When I arrived the door was indeed unlocked, but her parents were still awake, watching TV in the front room. Somehow, this clutz managed to tiptoe across the kitchen, up the stairs, and into my BFF's room. She had the closet ready for me; a blanket, a pillow, white bread, and chocolate chips. It was amazing. It was exciting.
I lasted about 20 minutes in the closet before I got scared. I started crying, and soon my BFF and her little brother were crying too. We told her parents, who were not mad, and soon my dad was on his way to get me.
Thirty years later, after receiving some particularly frustrating news on the litigation of the rapist, I shared an update on Facebook, and it was quite obvious I was raw with emotion. The next morning, my BFF's mother posted this on my wall:
Trish, when it's all over, I have a closet for you.
Those words, simple but cryptic to the average listener, are still such a comfort to me. She knows. She understands. She isn't trying to fix it, or me. She is willing to be what I never had; a safe place to hide. We all need that. So accept my gift when you need it; a closet to hide in.
Gift three: I give you words.
When I was first abused, I lacked the words to be able to tell anyone what had happened. And as I grew my vocabulary became perverted as words of love and friendship became intertwined with words of pain and hurt. I want to give you a few words, some of my favorites. I offer them to you as a starting point, and ask you to continue building your own list as you heal.
Belief- I believe you. I believe what you tell me. I believe that you are in pain. I believe you deserve justice.
Empathy- I hurt with you. No, I don't know what you are going through. We share some common pains, but your pain is unique to you. I will sit quietly and listen to you. I'm sorry you are hurting. You did nothing to deserve the pain you feel.
Grieving- All of us had a dream, a wish, we hoped to come true. You and I, well, our dreams got taken from us. I give you permission to grieve that dream. As with any loss, you need the time and space to grieve your loss. It's ok to express your emotions. If you don't know how, we can explore together.
Hope- While it is incredibly hard to see right now, you have a future. All of the events that led you to this point, that beat you down and made you feel defeated, they belong to your past. Your future is yours. All of the pain you feel, the anger you hold, it can be made into something new, something beautiful, in your future. That is hope.
Going back to the manger and Mary's reaction to the gifts of the Magi, well, we just really don't know. The bible doesn't tell us why Jesus was given gold and spices, but in the end we know he needed them. It is assumed by many scholars that the gold helped him escape, and the spices were prophetic in nature, to symbolize his death. If you look closely at the life of Jesus, you will find that these words I give you are important to Him too.
This Christmas, may you find what you need to continue healing. I wish I could say you just wake up one day and it's all better, but truthfully that's not how it happens. But if you need a smile, or a closet, or the right word; look me up. I'd like to try to help.