The Gift That Won’t Fit

What’s with these fanatics, decking the halls weeks before Thanksgiving, then insisting on stretching that tinseled celebration straight into the New Year?

Guilty! Yes, I binge on this season that invites grown-ups to become children again.

Like every kid, I got revved up over presents under the tree. I would jiggle each one and Wear.My.Mama.OUT with constant guessing!

It’s easy to lose that wonder. Our deepest desires no longer fit under the tree. Bows cannot top our innermost longings. This girl adores everything Christmas. But this year, no colorful box can contain my heart’s cry.

Anxious thoughts buffeted my peace all night. In the morning, dark circles exposed the battle scars, so I slathered on concealer.

I heard my son stuffing one collapsible backpack with all he would own for the coming year. Puddles of tears dissolved my concealer as I realized his scuffling on the other side of that wall would soon be silent.

Today, Paul would gather with a missionary team to leave every familiar thing behind and reside in eleven countries for eleven months. Previous missionaries warned us of sparse communication from these places. Many of the world’s remote villages exist without electricity and plumbing, much less WiFi.

What kind of mama sends her son to live in such impoverished places? What kind of mama allows her child to embark on a yearlong mission that will surely kill him? (I meant to say that!)

You can’t literally become one with “the least of these” for the cause of Christ and return unchanged. It’s simply impossible! Something in you will die so that the most real part of you can truly live.

I tried to ready myself for the coming hours. How could I say goodbye without embarrassing him? What if he got sick and I wouldn’t even know it? How frequently would he be surrounded by danger with no protection but the Angel Armies of God?

Tears wreaked havoc. I exhausted myself searching for solutions to boatloads of questions. Trepidation taunted as uneasiness escalated.

Out of nowhere, one of my music apps suggested a song that stopped me in my tracks. Back in the day, my sweet baby boy delighted in this melody. He would yell from his car seat, “Play ‘Cru-Ti-Fied with Christ,’ Mama!”

“Crucified with Christ” became a signature mark between us. Even from college, Paul often texted it to recall sweet memories and declare allegiance to the call upon our lives: “Even though it took dying to survive, I’ve never felt so much aliveFor I am crucified with Christ and yet I live!”

Now, as these cherished lyrics seeped deeply into my soul, I realized THIS anxiety-filled day was everything I had ever prayed for my son.

Right there in my bathroom, I became painfully aware that my son is too grown up for that once-protective car seat. In fact, he is too grown up to protect at all. Crazily enough, peace overwhelmed me.

The reality? My son was never mine. He has always belonged to God. Now, Paul knows it, too. I’ve prayed since his birth that his whole life would enthusiastically declare, “I am crucified with Christ and yet I live.” And so, it is.

This Christmas will be different for our family. Paul’s absence will certainly create some tears. But we’ll smile, too, from a gift that won’t fit under our tree but will be hallowed in our hearts. Our son is doing what matters most: offering his life as a living sacrifice to the One who created him, calls him, carries him, and keeps him.

What do you want that won’t fit under the tree? What deep longing has been on your list so long that you wonder if it is still possible? Have you prayed about it? I promise, He’s listening. He may deliver it in an entirely unexpected (even uncomfortable) package. But He longs to give us the desires of our hearts. I have seen it. I am living it. I stake my very life on it! You can, too!


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