By Rev. Debra Jene Collum
Chatfield United Methodist
Imagine for a moment, a gift you received from a child: a grand child, a son or daughter, a niece or nephew, a neighbor child. Think carefully. What did it look like? Was it a clay mug with a misshapen handle? A leather key fob made at camp with the word “mom” crookedly stamped on to it? Or a cross made from macaroni and gold spray paint?
Can you remember? Is it still sitting at home in some place of honor?
Billy Collins, poet laureate of the U.S. from 2001-2003, wrote a poem about such a gift called “The Lanyard.” I encourage you to Google it.
A lanyard is one of those gifts from childhood that were made with amazing attention and dedication and naiveté. Billy writes that he made this gift of a lanyard at summer camp for his mother despite the fact that he had never seen one used. Yet, he anticipated with great anticipation her joy on receiving this gift of a lanyard.
Billy then writes reflectively; comparing his gift of a lanyard with dubious worth, to his mother’s gifts to him: the gift of life and all that entailed. Sleepless nights, medicine given by the teaspoon, lessons in walking, swimming, surviving, thriving. All of these gifts of immeasurable worth. And what does he proudly give her? A Lanyard. And how does she receive it? As if it is a truly worthy payment for all the gifts she had given him. Billy Collins writes: “I was a sure as a boy could be that this useless worthless thing I wove out of boredom… Would be enough to make us even.”
All those gifts you received from children in your lives were just that weren’t they? Not repayment for all you did to love that child: but a gift which pronounced to all: “I love her and she loves me, we are even.” For that is exactly what love is, given and received, not as a payment but as a gift free from obligation or need for reimbursement.
And what do we bring as our gifts to God; faltering moments of belief and devotion; scattered moments of prayer and praise; righteousness tainted with selfish motives, gifts of money which are only barely sacrificial. Gifts, like lanyards, that are of dubious worth; yet given with as much love as we know how to give.
And what do we receive from God for these dubious gifts? Life abundant life! Access to joy untold! Life and breath and a heart capable of loving and eyes capable of seeing God’s face.
And even more: God gives us Jesus, a child born into poverty so that we can know what is really important.
A child who grew into a man who lived to serve others before himself so that we can know what it is like to really live with purpose
A man who died because he knew the perfect way to love another so that we could see God’s love for ourselves
And a life that overcame death, so that we could see that our greatest fears were no match for God.
All this God gave us as we handed to God our own clumsy misshaped lives.
And God calls it even.