I adore Christmas! It's a time where families draw close to celebrate the greatest gift the world has ever known: the gift of Christ Jesus. Perhaps it's because I remember well the overwhelming joy I felt when I received that precious gift that I also adore gift-giving. There is something magical about seeking and finding the perfect gift for the one you love, then awaiting their reaction as they open it on Christmas Day. A gift expresses the affection you feel for someone; it is an opportunity to demonstrate in a tangible and creative manner just how much they mean to you. Given my passion for gift-giving, it's no wonder that Christmas 2018 was one I greatly anticipated. For I had found what I believed to be the perfect gift for Gary, and couldn't wait to see what his response would be when he opened the bag in which it resided.
In order to understand the gift's significance, one needs to know that Gary lost his father at a very young age, and lost his mom, Peggy, in August 2018. After Peggy's death, Gary and I began the arduous task of sorting through his mom's mountain of boxes. In the first few days, we came across piles of newspaper clippings containing everything from recipes to rules of etiquette - most had succumbed to the effects of age and insects, so were immediately tossed in the trash. Old boxes of soap, perfume and Advil (she must have really liked Advil!) also made their way into the garbage bin. But, with the trash, we also encountered many priceless photos of, and also letters penned by, Gary's dad. While combing through these, Gary expressed a wish - a desire to hear his father's voice, just one more time. And a few days later, we happened upon an incredible treasure: a 7" vinyl record labeled A Personal Message from a Service Man to Mrs. Ruby Taylor. During the 1940's, Gary's dad was stationed in Oregon, and the American Red Cross provided him with the chance to send an audio message to his mom in the form of a vinyl record. Gary held the record and wondered aloud if it might still play - he placed it in his bedside drawer, and there it remained, seemingly forgotten.
My son, Jeffrey, and I did not forget this found treasure, or its potential significance. We decided that the perfect Christmas gift for Gary would be a turntable, for it might allow him to hear his father's voice once again, just as he'd hoped. We made our purchase, then we waited. Waited for Christmas Day, when Gary would receive his gift from us, and perhaps a greater one in the form of a wish, fulfilled. To describe Gary's reaction to his gift is difficult. First, he was confused. Then the realization of why we'd given him that gift gave way to emotion. The gift sat in its box for a few days - perhaps Gary was preparing himself for what he might, or might not, hear when he finally put it to use. Eventually, the gift was set on the counter and opened, and his dad's record carefully placed on the turntable to play. The record began revolving, but the voice we heard was garbled... slow... unintelligible. We realized we would need a turntable that played at a higher speed. And so, we must wait a little longer in hopes that Gary's wish, although delayed, will still be fulfilled.
I understand Gary's desire to hear the voice of his father, for I often long to hear a word from my dad, who passed away in 2016. But it occurs to me that I don't have to hear my dad's voice to experience his presence in my life. There are myriad ways in which my dad still speaks to me - not audibly, but rather through the photos and letters he left behind, through conversations I have with others about him, through experiences that bring him to my mind, and through the memories I hold close to my heart. Though he's not physically present in my life any longer, it is in these ways that Dad continues to influence and guide me, to reassure and encourage me.
There are times when I wish I could hear God's voice, as well. How much more confident in my choices and more assured of my adherence to His will I'd be, if only God would give me some verbal instructions, maybe using a burning bush or a storm-filled sky as His backdrop. And yet, God does speak to me in countless ways, including:
through His creation,
through conversations I have with others about Him,
through experiences (good and bad) that allow me to learn more about Him and about myself,
through the nudging of His Spirit within me, and
through His Word.
God is always there, influencing and guiding, reassuring and encouraging me. I need only open my heart and incline my ear toward Him, and I will hear it... the voice of my Father. An amazing wish, fulfilled.
"Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live…” ~Isaiah 55:3