Have you ever received a gift that was embarrassingly extravagant, prefect, and enough to turn your face tomato-sauce red? Or have you ever been in a gift war where two people fought over who got to pay the bill and subtly slid twenty dollars into the other’s purse when she wasn’t looking?
Herbert tries to go on a gift war with God in Thanksgiving. But then, how do you respond to a gift like Jesus’ sacrifice? It is rather like Peter trying to respond to Jesus’ transfiguration. He opened his mouth and words started flowing out in a sputtering stream, trying to make sense of the situation.
But the situation does not make sense. And so the response is hard to figure out. Herbert wonders,
OH King of grief! (a title strange, yet true,/ To thee of all kings onely due)
Oh King of wounds! how shall I grieve for thee,/ Who in all grief preventest me?
Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice, so there is no way for us to respond in turn. It is just to copy a gift already given. So should we gloss over what happened like a nursery-poem or sappy romance? Or can we “get back” at God by giving all the gifts He gives back in money, friendship, marriage, talent. Herbert schemed to study the Bible until love was a science he could proudly display for His Savior.
Nay, I will reade thy book, and never move/ Till I have found therein thy love,/ Thy art of love, which I’le turn back on thee:/ O my deare Saviour, Victorie!
Then for thy passion—I will do for that—/ Alas, my God, I know not what.
God gets the last word – His gift is not something we can match, and He always wins a gift war.
It is funny how often I try anyway. Ephesians 2:8-9 is a passage I memorized in grade school, but it still does not seem to have penetrated,
“8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
God, I try so hard to do good for You…and sometimes it is out of love, but often I look back with pride at my shiny little good deeds. Pennies are shiny in a wishing well, after all, wishing they will pay back the debt of the well. God, it is hard to know how to respond to Christ’s sacrifice, other than in obedience. But it seems so little, and I am not as constant as I would wish. Thank You, God. Like Herbert, awe, gratitude, and humbling myself. I can’t pay You back in any way, so thank You. Please let my heart serve with willingness! I love You, Amen.