Brown paper packages wrapped up in string, these are a few of my favorite things.
Yes, I’m an avid Sound of Music fan, and really any movie or novel from that era. In fact, I’ve been wrapped up in it lately, having just finished binge-watching all of season one of The Man in the High Castle only to follow up with reviews of the nonfiction work Operation Long Jump. Now, Hitler didn’t win out in WWII and his assassination plot against the three major leaders of the world at that time wasn’t successful. But. Another sinister presence, maybe just as scary, is conspiring to steal one of the most important gifts any of us can give or receive—the gift of each other.
We still have favorite things, but I see from myself a focus more on the wrapping of these things than on the gift itself.
Maybe the reason some of us literally care less and less about what’s inside that gift than what’s outside it is because we are getting better and better about packaging what’s on the outside. Just take a quick trip to Hobby Lobby and you’ll know what I mean. How can anyone not be paralyzed with all the options of paper, embellishments, and shiny things these days!?
We love our ribbons and bows.
To add to that, the demand on our precious resources—our time, our money, and yes, our creativity, get more enormous by the moment! So really, how much easier it is to get a gift card and put it in a pretty box?
But it leads me to also reflect on another level about another sort of ribbon and bow masking.
Here I think we find a commentary about 21st century relationships too, something that my author friend Kallie Ross discusses in a Christmas meditation of her own.
We have a major flaw in our logic when it comes to presents and presence. That defect is a direct result of our addiction to instant gratification (i.e. Likes, <3, and Shares). Selfishness is at the root of our stingy, isolated ways….
We, I, need to get better at being present without all the ribbons and bows.
We expect more and more from people, more likes, more virtual hugs (what about real hugs??!) more smiley face explanations, more, more, more. We want everything from relationships that we aren’t willing (because of our limited resources) to put much of anything into.
I’ve recently discovered this from my own personal experience. My experience of wanting to fill that vast void in myself with a peace and joy that comes from thriving relationships…but I find myself wanting it without first having to put myself out there. Maybe because the world is telling me that I should have everything for nothing? Maybe because I can interact with hundreds of people without ever talking to them on Facebook? Maybe because I can feel connected without actually being so? Whatever it is, finally, thankfully, I’m seeing the aftermath of this default war on relationships. But I still struggle to put a stop to the silly (foolish) expectations. In Kallie’s words,
We can’t receive joy during this season with our arms crossed tightly in front of us. We have to open up and let people in.
We have to get past the ribbons and bows to get to the real ribbons and bows, the stuff of the invisible, incredible us.
We don’t necessarily need something sparkly or glossy to make others notice us. If anything, those things may be hiding the real us, the real gift, that of who we really are. What we really need is a commitment to just be who we are, to not be ashamed of our pasts or presents but to share our struggles, to embrace vulnerability, to join each other in the trenches of our days.
What we really need is the courage to flash our real ribbons and bows—the beautiful joy of who we actually are with each other. We need to relearn to invest in us and not in stuff. To focus more on the gift and less on the wrapping.
I’m all for taking a step back from the ridiculously flashy. And I’m also all for adding a bit of glitz and glam to my latest selfie. I just want to make sure that I’m not spending all my time on either simplifying OR embellishing myself, my gifts, or my life (all the wrapping) and none of it on what’s on the inside (the gift).
I love the way Kallie wraps her own piece up.
We only reveal the parts of us that are filtered or fake and we keep our real selves hidden behind avatars or shiny wrapping…. We have to get out of ourselves and be present.
Are you ready to do that? I am!