Father God created you to be a treasure, a gift to be cherished. To be a gift means that we’re blessing someone. We’re making the lives of others better. Abba-Father designed each of us, at the very moment of our conception, to be gifts for the world — sacred gifts through which he could work. He answers the prayers of others through us. He heals through the giftedness of people in the medical field. He builds homes through the giftedness of laborers. Rarely does he do anything apart from the gifts that he designed into people. God values our partnership in accomplishing his will.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17 NIV)
Our Divine Daddy enjoys sharing his gifts. And you are one of his most precious gifts!
Acknowledging that we are gifts to the world is not prideful if we also acknowledge the Giver of the gifts. Being a gift is a very humble position, because a gift is always something that is handed over to others. God is the Giver. Others are served by the gift that we are.
Note: By the time you reach the end of this chapter, you will be able to see yourself as a treasure, a gift that the Father cherishes. However, if you find yourself stuck in thinking that God focuses only on what is wrong with you, and that you’re trash instead of a treasure, re-read this chapter but more slowly. Turn the entire chapter into a spiritual exercise by reading over and over again the parts about being God’s gift to others — until you begin to believe that it’s true about you. And if that doesn’t get you unstuck, please see a therapist; your wounds run deep and cannot be healed by this book alone. But be assured that the Father does want to heal you!
Let’s start by remembering what we learned about ourselves from our childhood, especially: Did your experiences teach you that you are a gift? Psalm 127:3 tells us, “Children are a gift from the Lord”. That’s what I learned as a child. My husband Ralph, however, had been taught something very different. His dad often said to him and his six siblings, “Children are liabilities until you grow up and move out.”
Did your childhood experiences teach you that you are a gift? Psalm 127:3 tells us, “Children are a gift from the Lord”. That’s what I learned as a child. My husband Ralph, however, had been taught something very different. His dad often said to him and his six siblings, “Children are liabilities until you grow up and move out.”
Ralph explains: “When we did something good, he’d say, ‘You’re a good kid.’ But when we messed up, he’d yell at us and tell us that we were liabilities.”
How do you think this affected Ralph’s perception of God the Father?
His dad loved to play with the children. He loved them and cherished them. However, he often became quite gruff, easily losing his temper. To avoid getting yelled at, Ralph learned to hide in the background. He felt happiest when he was quietly ignored.
These experiences forged in Ralph the idea that he was basically good but nothing special. And yet, he’s very intelligent and scientifically minded, which enabled him to become a highly skilled computer engineer with mechanical and electrical expertise. Before leaving the corporate world, he reached the national level where he served as a highly respected support tech for the field techs. Often, a client awaiting repairs wanted no one but Ralph to tackle the problem.
He was (and still is!) good at using the talents and intelligence that Abba-Father designed into him. Nevertheless, instead of recognizing that he was one of God’s gifts to the world, he thought of himself as just a cog in a machine. “If I disappear, someone else will replace me,” he believed. “I’m nothing special.”
When clients thanked him for sharing his special knowledge, instead of seeing their appreciation as God expressing his own gratefulness through them, he focused on how much he didn’t know. He insisted that he was inadequate and unimportant — which seemed like humility but in actuality was woundedness. When complimented, he wondered, “Are they trying to butter me up? What’s their hidden motive?” Gradually he’s learned to feel more comfortable about the good things that people say about him, but he’s had to fight the old inner voice that says, “You’re good, but you’re really a liability.”
You are a gift to Jesus
Do you know that the Father gave you to Jesus as a gift to him? If you’ve made Jesus your Lord and Savior, and if you desire to follow him and grow in holiness with the help of the Holy Spirit, then it’s true. The Father has adopted you into his family and has given you to Jesus as a gift of love. This is why Jesus prayed (italics are mine for emphasis): “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24 NIV).
Consider how the first apostles were a gift to Jesus: What giftedness did the Father design into them for the sake of blessing his Divine Son?
This question might not be readily answered because we tend to focus on how Jesus is a gift from the Father to us (to all humankind). And we tend to wrap giftedness up in terms of services that we render, the good deeds that we do, the talents that we utilize, and the love that we bring. However, sharing our giftedness is only half of the picture.
We are a gift.
The Father gave to Jesus the gift of close friends. Peter, James and John were the only apostles whom Jesus took up Mount Tabor to witness his miraculous transfiguration and his divine meeting with Moses and Elijah. And they were the only ones he took with him into the Garden of Gethsemane for emotional support as he agonized over his impending crucifixion. Obviously he treasured their friendship on a very personal level. And we know that Martha, Mary and Lazarus were other close friends.
The Father also gave to Jesus the gift of your friendship. Stop and think about that for a while. How much you love Jesus, how much you follow him, how much you adore him in the Holy Eucharist – that’s how much you are a gift to Jesus. And the Father is very pleased! The giver of the gift wants to see his gift make a difference. See it enjoyed. See it be a blessing. You know how he feels. You feel the same way when you give a present to a loved one.
There are many ways that we are a gift to Jesus. Let’s take as an example the apostles again. The Father gifted the first apostles with lives that put them in the right place at the right time to assist with the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah and the continuation of his mission afterward. You, too, were created by the Father for this time and place. It was no accident. Regardless of the circumstances of your conception, the Father gifted you with a life that is meant to be a blessing to Jesus in the world today.
How about their curiosity? Their willingness to learn? These too were ways that they were a gift to Jesus. In the same way, you are a gift to Jesus. And their talents? What talents did they have that made them a gift to Jesus while he lived on Earth? We like to joke that Peter was untalented as a fisherman, as evidenced by Jesus intervening a couple of times because Peter had failed to catch anything. However, let’s not forget that before Peter met Jesus, he had supported his family with his fishing business for years. It’s likely that he helped provide many of the meals that Jesus and his entourage enjoyed.
Today’s Exercise Part 1:
Describe your giftedness
In what ways are you a gift from the Father to Jesus? Write it down. Describe your giftedness. (Don’t skip this exercise. What comes next will be affected by what you write.)
* * *
When you finish writing about your giftedness, look at it again, but this time extend it out to the world: How you bless Jesus is how you bless the world. Jesus is giving you to others as a gift that helps make the world a better place. He had asked the Father for this. “As you sent me into the world,” he prayed, “I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18 NIV).
However, when we fail to see ourselves in this light, we can end up feeling resentful, especially if our giftedness gets used more than we’d like or if it’s shared with people we don’t like serving. It’s too easy to feel like we’re being taken advantage of. What we can give could be easily abused.
The difference between the Father seeing us as a gift for the world and being abused by the world is our attitude. Are we willing to be God’s gift to others? A gift that is freely given brings great joy to the giver and to God. But if we view ourselves as a cog in a machine, we feel pushed, driven by other forces. And no one likes to get pushed around.
To the Father, you are precious, uniquely valuable, and irreplaceable. That’s the definition of a wonderful gift! A masterpiece! No one else can bless others the way you can — no one who ever lived and no one who ever will live. Abba-Father designed you to be like nobody but him. You are gifted with God’s own giftedness (his goodness, his character traits, a portion of his talents) in a unique combination that matches no one else, ever.
We are happiest when we get to be who we really are, putting our giftedness to good use. Our life on Earth is meant to be spent unpacking our gifts as we become more and more like our Father. Since God is infinite, every person in the world could be like the Father and still be uniquely different than all other persons!
Cogs in machinery can be replaced. Gifts can be substituted, but never replaced.
Ralph is a wonderful gift — a huge blessing — to countless people. And I’m privileged to experience this in our relationship and in watching how he blesses others. God has blessed me through him for many years regardless of the imperfections of our marriage and the flaws that he (and I) bring to it. If I had never met him, I probably would have married someone else and enjoyed his giftedness, but he would not have been Ralph. He is irreplaceable. This sounds very obvious, but it’s a lesson in realizing how important each of us are in the giftedness that the Father designed into us.
After my parents moved into our home so that we could take care of them, Ralph became a gift to them (as well as to me) in the tasks of caregiving. As every caregiver knows, it’s easy to feel pushed and driven by outside forces, but Ralph is not a cog that could be replaced. No one else in the family can work through the maze of Medicaid paperwork like he does. No one else could be my partner in shouldering the responsibilities the way he does.
You are treasured by the Father
God designed Ralph to have a love of science. Before we met, I didn’t know that I could like it just as much. I began to fall in love with Ralph when, for a high school assignment in public speaking class, he gave a presentation about the orbital rendezvous of satellites. “Boring,” I thought at first. “But he’s cute, so I’ll try to listen.”
Something about his enthusiasm for science attracted me. I admired the way he drew pictures on the chalkboard to illustrate his words. I admired him for making something very complicated very easy for a non-scientist like me to grasp. After we started dating, he showed me that astronomy is fascinating, and when I went off to college, my new interest led me to a very fun job in the campus planetarium.
The Father admires you for what you do as the person he gifted you to be. And he appreciates you for blessing others and for how this, in turn, blesses still more people. One thing leads to another. Only he knows how far-reaching is the ripple-effect of your giftedness. Someday, when you leave this world and join him in eternity, he will tell you. For now, know that he is smiling at you with the most delightful, full-blown, twinkling-eye smile that you can imagine. Well, not quite. It’s even better than that!
I think that one of the reasons why Ralph fell in love with me was because I readily received from him the gift of his fascination with science. It had not been that way with his parents.
Three years prior, men had landed on the moon for the first time. Inspired by this monumental accomplishment, Ralph built a model of the lunar landing module. With creativity and a knack for design and engineering, he constructed it without any instructions, using only materials that he found in the house: tin foil, cardboard, paper towel tubes, etc. When finished, it stood four feet tall.
Then his dad came home from work and grumbled at it. “This is taking up too much space.,” he said. “Tear it apart and throw this junk away.”
His father inadvertently formed in Ralph an image of God as a Father who doesn’t admire his children for the good that they do. Ralph thought, far into his adulthood: “I’m basically good, but God’s not particularly interested in me and he is not particularly against me. He ignores me as long as I don’t create problems. He’s indifferent toward me.” This, to him, was fatherly benevolence.
And when Ralph does create problems? He says, “When I screw up, I’m a liability to God, but he picks me up and dusts me off and sends me on my way.”
This is not how Abba-Father thinks about us. We are all a gift — a beautiful, irreplaceable gift. Perhaps there’s a tear in the old wrapping paper, and maybe the ribbon is askew. If the gift has been dropped by someone, it’s broken. But the Father treasures the gift as if it were in perfect condition. He smiles as he holds the gift. His eyes twinkle with joy as he shares the gift with Jesus, who shares the gift with the world.
This is the Father we instinctively long for. Until we discover that Abba is always admiring us, beholding us as a treasure, we’re unsatisfied and edgy, easily resentful. We seek reassurance but it’s never enough until we hear the Father beam his reassurance.
Ralph says that the most important benefit he gets from the Sacrament of Confession is this reassurance. But all too often, the priest simply says the words of absolution without adding words of reassurance. To Ralph this indicates that he’s not truly listening. In contrast, when he apologizes to the people he’s hurt and they forgive him, they reassure him that everything’s going to be okay. Is it any wonder that this sacrament isn’t as appealing to him as God designed it to be?
God has gifted you for ministry
How generous are you with the gift of yourself? At your funeral, will people honor you because of what you did? Will they talk about how God gifted the world through you? Will they discuss with each other the differences you made?
When you come face to face with Jesus at the time you enter eternal life, will you judge yourself unworthy of the fullness of his love because you were stingy with the gift of yourself?
Because you are unique, your ministry is unique. No one besides you can perform this service quite like you. God has matched the perfect ministry to your abilities and the level you’ve reached in your spiritual growth. He created you for this.
Whatever we have received from him is meant to be shared with others. As Catholic lay evangelist David Thorpe has said, “God wants to fill you to spill you.” That is, God wants to fill your life with gifts, in order to spill you onto others.
Realize that God sees you as very gifted. Then whenever people ask you to share yourself with them, you can say what Peter said when he healed the crippled man: “What I have I give to you” (see Acts 3:1-10).
As Christians of the 21st century, we are members of a Church that is not just concerned about the souls of others, but the well-being of the whole person, spiritually, physically, socially and psychologically. We are not just concerned about humanity, but the well-being of the planet. Ministry is more than trying to get everyone to heaven; it is working hard to bring all human life to its God-given potential, from the unborn to the elderly, from strangers in the poverty-stricken Third World to the handicapped children in our local schools.
To serve all these needs, the Church is putting out the call for more people, for the use of more gifts, and for the strength of more commitments. As Pope John Paul II said to a group of U.S. bishops in 1993, “the vitality of a parish depends on merging the diverse vocations and gifts of its members into a unity.” We are all needed.
Saint Paul wrote: “Think of us in these terms: as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries” (1 Corinthians 4:1). We need to periodically examine our lives and ask, “How good of a steward am I with the gifts that God has given me?”
Don’t underestimate your value
Too often, instead of listening to God tell us who we are, we believe what our parents, teachers, and other significant people have said about us. “You’ll never amount to anything!” may have been meant as a challenge to encourage us to strive for our full potential, but the child in us absorbed it literally. The words destroyed our self-image. Intellectually, we may have disagreed with the assessments of others, but deep inside, where the child blindly trusts those in authority, the child’s interpretation of the words has taken root.
These falsehoods need to be erased by the power of God, and replaced with his words. If you were to make two lists, one naming your faults and the other naming your good points, the fault category would be longer, wouldn’t it? This is the way most people view themselves after a lifetime of being defined by others. However, this is not the way God sees you; if it were, he would never call you to ministry. Ministries are not built on faults.
Yes, God uses our weaknesses, but not as the foundation of the mission to which he calls us. If he did, our ministries would collapse when times get shaky, like a house on a fault-line during an earthquake. Rather, God bases our ministries on all that is good in us. How much time have you spent examining what is good in you — and believing it? Let the Holy Spirit teach you about how much the Father values you. He esteems you highly!
God knows us exactly and intimately. We don’t. Rather than assume we are so bad, so ugly, or so unlikely to be gifts for the world from the Father, we need to take time to listen to him describe who we really are. We need to ask him to remove the blinders of low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is not humility. It’s based on a lie, which says that we are far from being who we’re supposed to be. It also says that we will never get there. God, though, esteems us highly, as it is written in Romans 5:8.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (NASB)
Yes, we have sinned. Yes, we are far from perfect. But the moment we chose to believe in the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus, the Father esteemed us so highly that he called us saints!
Do you think of yourself as a saint? Saint Paul said that all who are loved by God are saints (see Romans 1:7). Both the Old and New Testaments refer to the people of God as saints. Accept the fact that this is how God sees you. Begin to see yourself that way! To continue to live with low self-esteem is saying to God, “You’re wrong about me.” How dare we contradict God!
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. (Psalm 16:3 ESV).
Today’s Exercise Part 2:
See your giftedness the way the Father sees them
To better understand how Abba-Father can look at us and see a wonderful gift despite all of our sins and imperfections, it helps to learn how to see others this way. First, we need to realize that, unlike God, we can only see others skin-deep. We see their faults, not the wounded heart underneath that impels them to behave in faulty ways. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can see past their faults.
I learned how to do this in the early days of Good News Ministries, back in the late 1990s when we had problems with our first chaplain, Father Ed (the same one who had introduced me to the Eucharist). For twenty years he had been a good friend. However, both of his parents had been alcoholics. The insufficient love he had received from them and the faulty understanding of relationships that he learned from his troubled childhood, compounded by becoming an alcoholic himself and never facing his problems, increasingly interfered with our friendship and with his ministry as a parish priest and as the chaplain of Good News Ministries.
Jesus said we must forgive again and again, “seventy times seven times” (see Matthew 18:22). When I got tired of this and the need to repeatedly forgive him became overwhelming, I begged God to remove him from my life. Instead of cooperating with my wishes, which were based on my own weaknesses, he answered this prayer by giving me supernatural love for Father Ed.
To open my heart to receive this love, my Divine Daddy showed me a vision using the gift of my imagination. I saw a giant, multifaceted gem. The Holy Spirit spoke to my heart: “This is the treasure that Ed truly is, deep inside.”
The gem was many-faceted, just like our personalities. Each facet had its own beautiful color. As the light (the Light of Christ) danced on any one of the gem’s facets, a color glowed brightly and beamed off into the world. This is how the Father designed us. We make the world a better place when the Light of Christ interacts with any of the facets of our personality.
However, Father Ed’s gem was covered with the muck and mud that had been slung onto it whenever someone sinned against him since his earliest childhood. When his parents and others taught him wrong ideas, they slapped more muck onto him. And when he himself chose to sin, he added more mud. He was now so covered with muck and mud that I couldn’t see the gift that God had created him to be.
God could see it, though. And from that moment on, so could I.
The Sacrament of Confession wipes the muck off of our inner gem. Healing through counseling and reading books like this one further cleans up our gem. Unlearning the wrong ideas that the world teaches, replacing them with the truth that comes from the Holy Spirit, is also necessary to let our gem shine in all its splendor.
Until others do the same with their gems, if we remember what exists under the muck, it becomes supernaturally easy to see past their faults. And now we understand how Abba-Father can look at us and all of our faults and see a wonderful gift.
Scripture tells us what this gem looks like. The famous love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, gives us a good description. Here’s what verses four through seven tell us about our giftedness:
- Love is patient
- Love is kind
- Love does not envy
- Love does not boast
- Love is not proud
- Love does not dishonor others
- Love is not self-seeking
- Love is not easily angered
- Love keeps no record of wrong-doings
- Love does not delight in evil
- Love rejoices with the truth
- Love protects
- Love trusts
- Love hopes
- Love perseveres
Re-write this list, substituting the word “Abba” (or “God” or “the Father” or “Papa”, whatever your favorite name for him is) in place of “love.” For example:
- Abba is patient
- Abba is kind
* * *
Next, re-write it again, this time adding yourself to the end of each description. For example:
- Abba is patient with me.
- Abba is kind towards me.
* * *
Finally, re-write it one more time, now replacing the word “love” with yourself:
- I am patient.
- I am kind.”
* * *
This list describes your gem! This is how Abba-Father sees you. Now, with the help of the Holy Spirit, continue what you’ve already begun: Get rid of the muck that interferes with the glow of your gem so that you can become the gift to others that the Father created you to be.
And meanwhile, remember that what others cannot yet see, Abba-Father sees. And he is very delighted!
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© 2020 by Terry A. Modica
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