Monday, May 6, 2013

Brown Paper Bag Love

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:18

Years ago I attended a church were a kind, elderly widowed man faithfully attended. This man had been a pillar in both  his community and church. His aging body beguiled his once prominence and strength. Never would I have known his importance in the community, because his gentleness and humility was his drawing card. 

Naturally being drawn to the older elderly, I began to bring him Christmas gifts each year wrapped in brilliant colors and pizzazz. On one particular Sunday I came prepared to deliver my usual bag of goodies. What was different this year, though, was when I approached him sitting in the pew he was waiting for me. He had taken note of my consistent yearly packages and decided he would reciprocate. Sitting next to him was a small brown paper bag folded over. His frail hand was resting on top of the bag with an anticipatory grin spread across his face. "How sweet," I mused. I greeted him and delivered my simple gifts in my usual elaborate packaging. Reaching down, the man quietly and simply handed me the brown paper bag. We exchanged pleasantries and I went on my way. 

Admittingly, I blew off the contents of the bag and went about my day. Later I opened the brown paper bag, and to my complete shock, I found the most beautiful, hand-crafted, hand-painted wooden egg from the Ukraine. The artistry of this gift continues to be astonishing. Like the man's earthly opulence hidden behind meekness, his extravagant gift of love was hidden behind a brown paper bag. 

This love, wrapped in a brown paper bag, reminds me of the way the King of this universe delivers His love. While the world waits to have God deliver His extravagant love in houses, cars, careers, deep friendships, taylor-made clothing, words that stroke our egos, and other sightly acts and gifts of confirmation, God chooses to deliver His love hidden behind simple, rough packing. Often we ignore or rebuke these gifts as inferior, because they do not appeal to our selfish desires and senses. But know this, the packaging may be rough but the gift inside is extravagant. 

My dad's suicide was one such gift. At first I rebuked the thought that a God who loved me would hand me a package wrapped in such pain and trauma, but what I learned over a period of several months was that inside this roughly donned package was "hand-crafted" and "hand-painted" gifts of beauty that only a King could have crafted and delivered-love, compassion, insight, grace, forgiveness, understanding, and most importantly being personally attended to by the King of the universe. God delivered so much of my understanding of life through this "brown paper bag" of love. In fact, like the egg, I would never trade my gift with anyone else. 

What is inside your brown paper bag? Perhaps you have dismissed this gift or have been angry at the way it was packaged and delivered. Sometime diamonds are delivered in rough packages. Today, take hold of your bag. Open it. Embrace the love, because like me, once it is opened you will never want to let go. 

Jesus, you were delivered on a cross. Blood streaming down. Because of this, I now have eternal life. God, thank you for brown paper bag deliveries-the unseen gift of eternal life.