The day I went home for Christmas, I sat next to a woman and her infant daughter on the subway. The baby girl kept smiling at me, and so eventually I took out my headphones and guessed at her age– she appeared to be about as old as my godson. The woman and I struck up a conversation, and finally I asked her, “Is she your first?”
The woman smiled at me as though she was about to deliver a punchline. “She’s my first in 23 years! I had a boy when I was 19, and then, when I thought I was done, I found out I was pregnant with this one at 42! She’s a gift.”
The woman went on to describe to me the differences between being a teen mom and being a mom in her forties, how much she had learned and could do for her daughter. “I wouldn’t change the way it happened,” she told me. She was glowing with joy.
When we think about receiving gifts, we think about receiving something that is completely within our control. I’ll get x and I will do y with it at z time. When the gift is wrapped up in circumstances beyond our control, we sometimes fail to see it as gift. “All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change” (James 1:17). The goodness of the gift is from him; the goodness it elicits from us is also a gift from him. A situation may not be ideal, but then, God doesn’t work within our expectations. He aims to give us more and to bring us to salvation. That is why we must react to gifts not just with gratitude but with charity. Gifts from God are “for us,” but not in the sense that a toy car is “for” a little boy. They are given to help us grow in patience, faith, hope, temperance, and while this might seem like a lot of work to receive something, God would rather we receive it wholeheartedly, able to enjoy it completely.