The Gifts of the Cross

by | Jun 4, 1999 | Gifts, Gifts of the Spirit, God's Love, Salvation

He deserves our compassion. When you see him, do not laugh. Do not mock. Do not turn away or shake your head. Just gently lead him to the nearest bench and help him sit down.

Have pity on the man. He is so fearful, so wide-eyed. He’s a deer on the streets of Manhattan. Tarzan walking through the urban jungle. He’s a beached whale, wondering how he got here and how he’ll get out.

Who is this forlorn creature? This ashen-faced orphan? He is please remove your hats out of respect – he is the man in the women’s department. Looking for a gift.

The season may be Christmas. The occasion may be her birthday or their anniversary. Whatever the motive, he has come out of hiding. Leaving behind his familiar habitat of sporting goods stores, food courts, and the big-screen television in the appliance department, he ventures into the unknown world of women’s wear. You’ll spot him easily. He’s the motionless one in the aisle. Were it not for the sweat rings under his arms, you’d think he was a mannequin.

But he isn’t. He is a man in a woman’s world, and he’s never seen so much underwear. At the WalMart where he buys his, it’s all wrapped up and fits on one shelf. But here he is in a forest of lace. His father warned him about places like this. Though the sign above says “lingerie,”, he knows he shouldn’t.

So he moves on, but he doesn’t know where to go. You see, not every man has been prepared for this moment as I was. My father saw the challenge of shopping for women as a rite of passage, right in there with birds and bees and tying neckties. He taught my brother and me how to survive when we shopped. I can remember the day he sat us down and taught us two words. To get around in a foreign country, you need to know the language, and my father taught us the language of the ladies’ department.

“There will come a time,” he said solemnly, “when a salesperson will offer to help you. At that moment take a deep breath and say this phrase, “Es-tée Lau-der.” On every gift-giving occasion for years after, my mom received three gifts from the three men in her life: Estée Lauder, Estée Lauder, and Estée Lauder.

My fear of the women’s department was gone. But then I met Denalyn. Denalyn doesn’t like Estée Lauder. Though I told her it made her smell motherly, she didn’t change her mind. I’ve been in a bind ever since.

This year for her birthday I opted to buy her a dress. When the salesperson asked me Denalyn’s size, I said I didn’t know. I honestly don’t. I know I can wrap my arm around her and that her hand fits nicely in mine. But her dress size? I never inquired. There are certain questions a man doesn’t ask.

The woman tried to be helpful. “How does she compare to me?” Now, I was taught to be polite to women, but I couldn’t be polite and answer that question. There was only one answer, “She is thinner.”

I stared at my feet, looking for a reply. After all, I write books. Surely I could think of the right words.

I considered being direct: “She is less of you.”

Or complimentary: “You are more of a woman than she is.”

Perhaps a hint would suffice? “I hear the store is downsizing.

“Finally I swallowed and said the only thing I knew to say, “Estée Lauder?”

She pointed me in the direction of the perfume department, but I knew better than to enter. I would try the purses. Thought it would be easy. What could be complicated about selecting a tool for holding cards and money? I’ve used the same money clip for eight years. What would be difficult about buying a purse?

Oh, naive soul that I am. Tell an attendant in the men’s department that you want a wallet, and you’re taken to a small counter next to the cash register. Your only decision is black or brown. Tell an attendant in the ladies’ department that you want a purse, and you are escorted to a room. A room of shelves. Shelves with purses. Purses with price tags. Small but potent price tags . . . prices so potent they should remove the need for a purse, right?

I was pondering this thought when the salesperson asked me some questions. Questions for which I had no answer. “What kind of purse would your wife like?” My blank look told her I was clueless, so she began listing the options: “Handbag? Shoulder bag? Glove bag? Backpack? Shoulder pack? Change purse?”

Dizzied by the options, I had to sit down and put my head between my knees lest I faint. Didn’t stop her. Leaning over me, she continued, “Moneybag? Tote bag? Pocketbook? Satchel?”

“Satchel?” I perked up at the sound of a familiar word. Satchel Paige pitched in the major leagues. This must be the answer. I straightened my shoulders and said proudly, “Satchel.”

Apparently she didn’t like my answer. She began to curse at me in a foreign language. Forgive me for relating her vulgarity, but she was very crude. I didn’t understand all she said, but I do know she called me a “Dooney Bird” and threatened to “brighten” me with a spade that belonged to someone named Kate. When she laid claim to “our mawny,” I put my hand over the wallet in my hip pocket and defied, “No, it’s my money. “That was enough! got out of there as fast as I could. But as I left the room, I gave her a bit of her own medicine. “Estée Lauder!” I shouted and ran as fast as I could.

Oh, the things we do to give gifts to those we love.

But we don’t mind, do we? We would do it all again. Fact is, we do it all again. Every Christmas, every birthday, every so often we find ourselves in foreign territory. Grownups are in toy stores. Dads are in teen stores. Wives are in the hunting department, and husbands are in the purse department.

Not only do we enter unusual places, we do unusual things. We assemble bicycles at midnight. We hide the new tires with mag wheels under the stairs. One fellow I heard about rented a movie theater so he and his wife could see their wedding pictures on their anniversary.

And we’d do it all again. Having pressed the grapes of service, we drink life’s sweetest wine – the wine of giving. We are at our best when we are giving. In fact, we are most like God when we are giving.

Have you ever wondered why God gives so much? We could exist on far less. He could have left the world flat and gray; we wouldn’t have known the difference. But he didn’t.

He splashed orange in the sunrise

and cast the sky in blue.

And if you love to see geese as they gather,

chances are you’ll see that too.

Did he have to make the squirrel’s tail furry?

Was he obliged to make the birds sing?

And the funny way that chickens scurry

or the majesty of thunder when it rings?

Why give a flower fragrance? Why give food its taste?

Could it be

he loves to see

that look upon your face?

If we give gifts to show our love, how much more would he? If we -speckled with foibles and greed – love to give gifts, how much more does God, pure and perfect God, enjoy giving gifts to us? Jesus asked, “If you hardhearted, sinful men know how to give good gifts to your children, won’t your Father in heaven even more certainly give good gifts to those who ask him for them?” (Matt. 7:11 TLB).

God’s gifts shed light on God’s heart, God’s good and generous heart. Jesus’ brother James tells us: “Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading town from the Father of Light” (James 1:17 MSG). Every gift reveals God’s love … but no gift reveals his love more than the gifts of the cross. They came, not wrapped in paper, but in passion. Not placed around a tree, but a cross. And not covered with ribbons, but sprinkled with blood.

The gifts of the cross.

He Chose The Nails, p. 3 – 8. Copyright. W Publishing, 2000,Max Lucado. Used by permission.


The Gifts of the Cross