In my line of work I come across all sorts of philosophies and theologies. Some are nicely packaged like a Nordstrom gift; perfect silvery box with color coordinated bow. Some are messy and unfinished, bits and pieces tossed into a nondescript paper bag. Some are quite bountiful and generous, others the first attempts at assembling a thought, a belief.
All of them, in their various states of completion, elaboration and decoration are housed under the umbrella of Reformed Christian. Presbyterian, to be more precise. And I find myself reveling in the diversity of it all. As a wise man once said, it’s easy to be of one mind when you’re with your own kind. I like contemplating others’ positions on issues. I like considering other interpretations of scripture. I like hearing the evolution of someone else’ thought process.
But in my line of work I also come across the misleading gift.
That’s the one that is beautifully wrapped with expensive heavy wrapping paper and a real satin ribbon. It’s the one that feels heavy when you hold it and makes mysteriously enticing sounds when you gently shake it. It’s the one you cannot take your eyes off for fear of losing one single magically lovely moment.
And you open it.
And you are suddenly hit with the stink of rotting flesh. You spy one lone item in this decorative masterpiece and it’s slimy, cheap and minuscule.
The misleading gift. It’s not just available in my line of work, in theology or philosophy. I see it in relationships, policies, manners. I see it all around, these misleading gifts.
That’s the one where someone tells you you’d be a better wife, husband, mother, father, child, friend if only you would…
That’s the one where someone smiles in your direction but it’s just their lips curling up while their eyes glare coldly at you.
That’s the one where society tells you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, but you’re barefoot.
The misleading gift is the one you receive with an open heart, excitedly run home with it tucked under your arm and then spend hours weeping in your pillow.
I was the recipient of such a gift today. But I won’t weep.
And I won’t rewrap and regift.
I’ll hold on to it for a bit, just so I can try to make sense of life, of humanity. And then I will let it go, like an unwanted balloon growing tinier and tinier in the vast sky.