Monday, December 21, 2009

Ignore the Wrapping (by Billy Coffey)

It is standard knowledge that men cannot wrap a present, and I am proof of that. I can cover them with paper, yes. I can disguise their true identities. Which in essence means I can wrap a present well enough to guarantee their intended purpose—to surprise. And the recipients of my gifts usually are surprised. They just can’t show it well because they’re so tired from getting through all the paper and tape.

It isn’t for lack of trying, either. I’ve been wrapping my wife’s Christmas gifts for almost twenty years, even before she was my wife. With an average of five gifts a year, I figure I’ve wrapped about a hundred presents. Not too shabby. But even with all that experience, this one fact cannot be overlooked—I really, really suck at it. Just look at the picture.

My wife refuses to allow me the pleasure of wrapping our children’s presents (“Elves would not wrap like that,” she says). She also seems a bit perturbed that I use more wrapping paper and tape or her five presents than she uses for the rest of the family combined.

The kids, too, are unimpressed. It’s fascinating that even at their young age they can discern what is beautiful and what is not. Last year was my son’s turn to hand out the presents. He took one look at the packaging job on my wife’s gifts and said, “What’d you do that was so bad, Mommy?”

But I persist. I refuse to bow to the notion that the better option would be to have the friendly retirees down at the mall wrap them for me. Or, even worse, to shove them all into gift bags. Not my style. Besides, the wrapping doesn’t really mean much. It’s what’s under the packaging that counts.

I was sitting in the middle of my office floor yesterday and thinking along those lines. Three of her five presents had been wrapped (using two rolls of paper and one roll of tape—I’m getting better, at least in that regard) and the fourth was proceeding nicely. Harry Connick, Jr. was crooning about what he prays for on Christmas, the neighborhood was encased in nearly three feet of snow, and I decided in that moment that while my life was not perfect, it was certainly good enough to warrant a smile and some reflection.

That’s what this time of year lends itself to. Reflection. And yesterday, I was reflecting about God’s wrapping paper.

Though this may sound a bit sacrilegious, God is much like Santa. He sees me when I’m sleeping and knows when I’m awake. Knows if I’ve been bad or good, too. And He gives me gifts. Many of them.

As I folded and cut and taped (and taped some more), I realized that some of the gifts God had given to me came wrapped flawlessly. I could look at the package and tell it was something good.
But there were others He gave that looked much like what I will put under the tree for my wife, lumpy and ugly and barely hanging together. And I’ll admit that my reaction to those gifts was much like my son’s last year—What’d I do that was so bad?

God would never answer that question, choosing instead to nod and smile and tell me to just open it. “Trust Me,” He’d say. “You’ll see.”

I didn’t always trust. But I still always saw.

Those gifts disguised in ugly wrapping were often not as good as the ones in pretty paper, they were better. Like the time He gave me a gift draped with a job loss which, once unwrapped, became one of the best presents I’ve ever gotten. Or the gift He offered of over forty rejections from agents and publishers. That was a lot of paper and tape to get through, but beneath was not only the perfect agent, but the perfect publisher as well.

It’s tough to say that everything God gives us is a gift. Tough, but maybe true. He’s given me things that I’m still haven’t found the blessing and joy in, but I’m still looking. Like my wife, sometimes we just have to keep unwrapping to get there. But it’s there.

“Trust Me,” He says. “You’ll see.”

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