Around this time each year, my Google history is a frantic reflection of what I like to call “the quest for Christmas perfection.”
By this point, I’ve thoughtfully purchased 95 percent of my gifts—each one curated from a perennial Pinterest board of gift ideas (hidden, of course) or a spontaneous find back in June. I’m down to the last few gift selections. This, of course, sends me into search engine overdrive—plagued by the potential of having to “settle” for a gift that’s not ideal, not fitting… not perfect.
So, while I’ve been known to frantically search for or craft “the perfect gift” late into Christmas Eve, I’ve yet to give a gift I don’t feel (to borrow a line from Elf) “psyched out of my mind” about. But at what cost? And, for that matter, what purpose?
A Not-So-Pretty Revelation
God convicted me of that just last month while I was chatting with my brother on the phone. He commented that I always find the best gifts for people, and I instantly noted a swell of pride in my heart. “How long has that been buried in there?” I wondered. “How often do I view gift-giving as an attempt to prove my worth to people in my life?”
Yikes. The answer wasn’t pretty.
I do genuinely love to bless others by knowing them well—it’s a passion of mine—but if I’m honest, I also love to be thought of as my brother referred to me: The One Who Always Finds the Perfect Gift. And you know what? That’s an outright sin.
It’s sin wrapped up in a pretty package, but it’s still sin.
A Word for the People-Pleaser
So, where do I turn? Do I just write “Jesus is the perfect gift” on cards and drop them in everyone’s stocking this Christmas? No. Rather, I dig deeper. And I turn to passages like Titus 3:4-7, which says:
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Doesn’t that cause your achievement-oriented, people-pleasing heart to take a deep sigh of relief? The only one we need to please is the One who says our efforts don’t make us more pleasing.
Friend, you and I don’t need to search out the perfect gift to prove we’re lovable. We don’t need to do or make or find anything. We can rest in the truth that we are: (1) not made to find fulfillment in others’ opinions of us and (2) we are fully loved and known by God regardless of what we do.
This Christmas, I hope you cling to the promise that you are chosen (1 Pet. 1:2-4), protected (Ps. 32:7), and deeply loved (1 John 4:9-10). So, let’s relax. Whether we give the gift of the year or forget someone entirely, whether we bake a masterpiece or set the oven on fire, whether we check off all the boxes or disappoint friends and family, we are loved.
The “Perfect Gift”: What Should Our Motive Be?
Last year, I spent over four hours making a batch of soup that I had optimistically thought I could “whip up” easily. I still remember my brother receiving it with a quizzical look on his face. “It’s butternut squash soup,” I exclaimed, “you said you really wanted some a few months ago!” He quickly recovered and grinned back at me, “You’re right. I did!” But my ego was already shot. Did he know how much time I’d spent making that dang bowl of soup? Did he have any clue I’d burned my hand while stirring that stupid soup?!”
Judging by his constant and lofty praise for the soup once he’d tried it (I definitely asked multiple times), I’d say my brother got the idea: This was a huge inconvenience for me; that’s how much I love you.
You know what? I don’t want to send that message this year. I want to humbly and graciously give because I love others, not because I want to be loved. I’m already loved. And so are you.