By Pete Celano (worship team member)
One of the most meaningful gifts I ever received from somebody else came in the midst of a time in my life when I was physically broken and suffering.
It was November 15, 1986, the day of my parents’ 45th wedding anniversary. I was doing something stupid, which for me was nothing new. This time, however, I didn’t get away with it. I was climbing a cliff in Grand Ledge, in the Grand River gorge, without any gear or safety equipment. I fell.
What followed was a series of events that let me know I was firmly in God’s hands. I fell over 20 feet onto rocks and never hit my head. The paramedics who finally reached me and floated me out of the gorge were openly praying over me. Though it was immediately recognized that my pelvis was split, I was bounced through two hospitals before it was discovered that my spine was fractured. Then I was transferred to U of M Hospital in Ann Arbor.
I had only been sober a few years, and so refused narcotic painkillers. And it was agony, dulled almost not at all by Tylenol. A prayer miracle happened that changed the doctors’ minds about the need for surgery, but they were nowhere near ready to release me.
During my stay in the hospital I had been sponge-bathed, but my hair hadn’t been washed in almost a week and I was losing my mind. My head itched ferociously and my hair was matted and so nasty. They had something called “dry wash”, but if you’ve ever experienced that you know you’re better off without it.
One quiet evening, the lady I had been dating for a couple of months, made arrangements with the hospital staff to have me carefully placed on a gurney. They wheeled me into a tiny room and arranged things so my head was over a washbasin. The gurney wouldn’t even fit in the room – my feet were sticking out into the hall through the partly opened door. And that lady, who became my wife, gently but thoroughly washed my hair. That simple gift was given to me 32 years ago, and yet to this day, I weep when telling others about that hair washing.
“You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:13-17)
It is so easy in our culture to fall into the trap of believing that value is in stuff. That misconception is on gaudy display every year at this time, as we are hammered from all sides with efforts to convince us that it is critical to buy and give, buy and give. We are led to think of giving only in terms of what we can and cannot afford.
I’m not condemning the giving of gifts or showing our love in that way, but rather recognizing in my own life that the most precious and wonderful things I have ever received are not things. Jesus, when he wanted to make a point with a coin, had to ask for one. (Mark 12:15) Treasure, Godly treasure, is not represented by or stored up in money and worldly wealth. He Himself is the treasure! He gives Himself to us and fills us to overflowing with His Holy Spirit, and shows us by example how we are to bless others by giving away these abundant treasures.
As we approach Christmas, consider how very blessed and rich we are as adopted children of Almighty God, our Loving Heavenly Father, and how much we all have to give of the stuff that really, eternally, matters. No matter how much of that stuff we give, we will never run out.
Father God, in Jesus’ name we ask that you help us to be mindful of the ever-present opportunities we have of serving others from the abundance of true, eternal treasure you have given us.