When the Gift Only Makes Matters Worse

It happens more times than you would think. A husband rushes out at the last minute and buys an expensive gift to give to his wife. He rushes home from work, gives her the store wrapped present, and then…she’s disappointed.

Women have a chocolate with a red ribbon

She’ll try to hide it. She’ll tell him the gift’s beautiful, but he knows her too well. He can read her. He knows she’s trying just a little too hard. He’ll get angry, complaining that nothing he ever does is good enough.

And he’ll completely misread her disappointment. She didn’t want another gift. She wanted him.

Here’s the mistake most men make. We get consumed with our lives, whether it’s work or some hobby. And then we feel really guilty when the holidays come around. So, we run out and spend way too much money on a gift and try to make up for all of the times when we were distracted by something else. We promise ourselves next year will be different but then, next year becomes this year, and we’re running into the mall at the last minute one more time.

And here’s what we as men don’t get about giving gifts to our wives. What our wives really want is us. They want our full attention, our total devotion, and our full energy. Anything less than that is well, a disappointment. And if a gift isn’t backed up by a love lived out every day, then the gift is a disappointment as well.

Maybe the best thing some of us guys can give our wives is a little honesty. Maybe we sit down over dinner and say something like “This hasn’t been a good year for me, but I’m going to do better.” Then, give her a calendar with dates, weekend getaways, and vacations already penciled in…it’ll be the one thing she wants more than anything.

Relax. It’ll be a lot cheaper than jewelry. The only thing it will cost you is a little time.

Two Great Lies You’ve Been Told

The first lie is: “You can be anything that you want to be…” Well, no you can’t. I live in Nashville, TN. There are a lot of people who have moved to Music City because somebody told them they could sing. And they can sing—to a point.

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But they can’t sing well enough to get a record deal. The sad thing is they would do anything to have a career in music, but it’s not going to happen. Sometimes, it’s not a matter of wanting it. You have to have the talent, the natural giftedness. If you don’t have the talent, it’s not going to happen. It’s just that simple.

And this happens in all kinds of careers. I have a friend who just signed to play football with a major university. He’s 6’8” and he weighs about 300 pounds. I would give anything to have been able to play football, but, believe it or not, I’m just too small and too slow.

Desire can do a lot of things, but it can’t make you faster.

This leads to the second big lie we’re told: “You can be anything you want to be if you’re willing to work hard.” Well, again, no you can’t. Like I said, standing next to my friend celebrating as he signed a football scholarship was a powerful reminder that no matter how hard I worked I wouldn’t grow taller or faster.

It’s the same feeling I get when I hear some of my friends play and sing great music. No matter how hard I try and no matter how hard I work, I’ll never be able to play like that.

The bad news is this: we’re human, and as humans, we’re limited.

Now, here’s the good news: we can be everything Christ created us to be.

All of us have gifts. All of us have talents. All of us were created on purpose for a purpose in God’s kingdom. Now, here’s the best news of all. When you realize that and find the great purpose for which you were created, you’ll find something that brings you the greatest joy you’ve ever known. In fact, it’s what you would have wanted if you had known to want it in the first place.

No, we can’t be anything we want to be. We can be everything we were created to be. We can be everything God wants us to be…which is exactly what we should want in the first place.

The Priceless Gift of Your Full Attention

I call it “multi-tasking.” Jeannie calls it “not paying attention.” As much as I hate to admit it, she’s right. I’d like to think I can ________ (read the newspaper, watch a football game, read a book) AND listen to her at the same time. The simple truth is, I can’t. Nobody can. For all of our gadgets that promise to allow us to do several things at the same time, the human brain simply isn’t geared for multi-tasking. Study after study shows that while we can get more things done, we do them markedly worse than if we had simply done them one at a time.

Couple in a cafe spends leisure time together, she is angry because he is busy on the phone

Add to this another reality—listening, true listening, is hard.

In fact, to actively listen you have to pay attention with your whole body. Your eyes have to watching for clues in body language. Your ears have to be alert to subtle changes in tone and pitch that convey meaning to language. Your body has to be tuned in to sense any fear or anger accompanying the words. This takes a lot of effort. There’s nothing casual about listening, really listening, to someone.

So, here’s what I’m learning.

When Jeannie starts talking to me, I mute the TV or I put down what I’m reading. I look at her. I turn my body toward her. I give her my full attention. I watch her face. I listen to the tone of her voice. I watch what she’s doing with her hands. Every part of her is trying to tell me something. I want to be sure I get it. I want to be sure I get it right, and I want to be sure I get it all.

That’s why I’m learning to give Jeannie my full attention.

Now, I’m not perfect at this; but I’m trying, and the times I get it right are subtle, but real, victories. There’s no one more important to me than Jeannie, and it’s in those moments when she has my full attention that she knows it best from me.

It’s funny—experts are now telling us that it’s no longer about time management.

It’s about “attention management.” Wow. Jeannie’s been telling me that for years. Please don’t mention this to her. She’ll think she’s an expert and will be impossible to live with.

Eyes That Can See

I have a friend who is a very gifted visual artist. He uses all kinds of materials to make the most interesting pieces. For instance, hanging over his couch is a brilliant metal sunburst. When you look closer, you realize the sculpture is made from old lawn mower blades. That’s right. Lawn mower blades.

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Now, who looks at an old lawn mower blade and sees sunshine? My friend does.

Artists have a different way of looking at things. Sure, they see things as they are, but they also see how things can be. Then, with their artistic work, they help us see. Great leaders have the same ability, just in a different way. They see things as they are, but they can also see how things can be. Then, they help us see the same thing.

Sadly, too many of us have chosen to live our lives at a speed where everything has become a blur. We literally can’t see what or who is right around us. They go by too fast. We just blow right by these people and moments every day of our lives. We never see them at all.

We never see the receptionist in our office.
We never see the server who brings us our food.
We never see the people in traffic around us.
We never see our neighbor who lives next door to us.
We never see our children…or our spouse…

We never see them because we never take the time to look—I mean, really LOOK. We never hear their stories. We never see their pain. We never know what’s going on with them because we’re too busy moving on to the next thing. We’re so busy looking at all of the suffering in the world, we never pay attention to the suffering that’s right around us.

The person who needs you most is closer than you think. The place you’re called to do Christ’s Kingdom work is right under your feet. The only thing we need is for Christ to heal our eyes so we can see. Yes, see things as they are, but also see how they can be if we just add His grace and power.