Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Love Language of Gifts

Want to lavish a friend, sibling, or parent with love? In his book The Five Love Languages For Teens, Gary Chapman describes five ways people feel loved: quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, and receiving gifts. That last one is the hardest one for me, especially because we live in such a materialistic culture. I found myself wondering if Jesus ever gave gifts to his disciples. If so, how, when, why? Here are three tips from our Lord's gift-giving strategy:

Lavish people occasionally with a no-strings-attached present. After a wearisome day of feeding the 5000, the Bible tells us that each of Jesus' disciples walked away with a lavish gift-basket full of leftover bread chunks. The disciples weren't working to earn their dinner. They must have been overwhelmed and delighted by the unexpected bonus. As Chapman points out, a true gift is never earned; that's the nature of the beast. Sometimes we give the people we love a gift just ... because.

Transform a simple gift into a ceremonial event. Chapman says that "emotional messages are enhanced when attention is given to the ceremony accomanying the gift ... when we diminish the ceremony, we diminish the emotional power of the gift." During the Last Supper, we're told that Jesus had the room ready in advance, took a lot of time to wash his disciples' feet, and reclined and conversed with them at table before actually giving them the gifts of bread and wine. He planned the entire event to resonate with intimacy so that every time they saw the gifts they would feel and remember his love.

Wow them with the surprise factor. Your friend, sibling, or parent works hard all day, and sometimes they feel as discouraged and exhausted as the disciples did in John 21:1-13. What a delight it must have been to catch sight of a fire flickering on the beach and smell freshly-caught fish cooking. If Jesus used the element of surprise in his gift-giving, why not try it ourselves? Download a song of encouragement and send it as an MP3 attachment to your Dad's email address, leave a cellophane-wrapped basket of fruit and nuts on your brother's desk to discover when he trudges upstairs to do his homework, tuck a bag of Hershey's Kisses into your friend's backpack with a note. Surprising those we love with creative small gifts in their everyday schedule actually packs more emotional wallop than buying expensive, trendy big-day presents.

Okay, so gifts work, but did you notice that our Lord's gift-giving was strikingly food-and-company-oriented? That's good news, as there's nothing I like better than a combo of food and conversation when it comes to a wonderful present. A picnic breakfast on a beach cooked by a friend and shared with that friend as we watch the sunrise? Now that sounds like love to me.

1 comment:

Donita K. Paul said...

I really liked your message today. It made me think about gifts. The examples you used would not add to anyone's clutter. (Oh, I happen to be cleaning out closets this weekend.)