The Gift: Forcibly Taken


On day two of our drive south we are sitting in a Starbucks parking lot in Chattanooga, TN. I am waiting for Jeff to bring me that dark and heavenly beverage that should make the morning better and brighter.

Switchfoot is playing on the stereo…

“Life is not what I thought it’d be, 24 hours ago; still I’m singing, Spirit take me up in arms with you…”

I commiserate with these words, as I sit in this strange place feeling vulnerable, broken, bruised.

The night before, as we swam in the hotel swimming pool for an hour, a thief forced entry into our hotel room and stole all the cash we had with us—as well as my wallet with credit cards, ids, and many personal items.

Life is not what I thought it’d be, 24 hours ago.

My husband saw the bright side immediately. The thief had not taken his wallet—an attempt, we are sure, to stall the discovery of the theft. We still had his cards and ids to continue our vacation on. Without those, we would have had to turn around and head home. Least, this way we could have our holiday.

We are very blessed he said.

I did not feel blessed.

I felt violated. Icky.

Someone I do not know is walking around with my pictures in his pocket and I was uncomfortable with that.

But Jeff kept insisting.

We are so blessed.

And that night when we prayed before going to sleep, he thanked God.

It wasn’t until reading this second chapter of The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, that I began to open up to this idea…this idea that to lose something is gain.

In chapter two, The Bones of the Dead, Hyde takes us deep into the potlatch ritual of the Tsimshian tribes. These ceremonies involve an elaborate gift exchange involving large copper plaques that are tied to the history of the individual doing the giving. The gift increases in value as it is passed from hand to hand over the years, just as the arm shells and necklaces of the Kula that we learned about in the last chapter.

Hyde explains the “increase of gifts” in three ways in this chapter.

The first is as a natural fact; the second, a natural-spiritual fact; and the third, a social fact. Hyde restates these three in this way: “…a circulation of gifts nourishes those parts of our spirit that are not entirely personal, parts that derive from nature, the group, the race, or the gods…although these wider spirits are a part of us, they are not ‘ours’; they are endowments bestowed upon us.”

We feed these “parts” of ourselves by giving away the increase they have brought to us.

And thus the gift goes on.

Hyde tells the story of the North Pacific Indian belief that when the bones of the salmon fish are returned to the sea, the bones would reassemble and thus the salmon population would continue to thrive. A great ceremony was held to welcome the first salmon, songs were sung and everyone was given a piece of the fish to eat. Then, amidst great hoopla, the bones of the fish were returned to the sea.

This mindset, Hyde says, encourages us to see “nature as part of ourselves”, and thus discourages exploitation. The sacrifice of the living, this giving of the “bones of the dead”, is believed to nourish life in the long term.

So. This brings me back to my thief.

All of Hyde’s studies of these tribal peoples have resonated deep within me of late. This passing on of the gift–the natural increase that occurs in doing so, the increase in closeness of the community—these things have me thinking about the increase I have experienced in my life….and how I have or have not shared this excess.

The whole experience made me think of Jean Valjean’s experience with Monsigneur Bienvenue in Les Miserables. After robbing the Bishop (Bienvenue) of his silver and being arrested, Valjean is shocked when the Bishop tells the policeman that the silver was a gift from him to Jean and Bienvenue even scolds the thief for not taking his silver candlesticks as well.

In the movie version, when Jean later asks Bienvenue why he treated him with such grace, the Bishop says, “I figured you needed that silver more than I.”

I don’t know if my thief “needed” my cash more than I. I don’t know what his or her life circumstances are. I do know that when I think of that loss as a gift, rather than a theft, I am able to feel some of that increase…some of that good will.

We are very blessed—as a family, as a people. I am trusting God to reassemble the bones of the dead in this offering and bring new life.

This morning, Jeffrey and I sat in the sand and watched the sunrise. With us, we had a handful of shells we had collected in our morning walk. As we sat, feeling the blessings of this life, I told him the Indian belief that to receive blessing from a gift we must return a portion of it.

We sang a praise song together, his young voice lifting over the sound of the waves and making me feel so old. Then we chose our most beautiful shell and stood at the ocean’s edge and threw it in. As our tiny sacrifice was carried out into that deep blue, we said a prayer for blessing.

I think I heard a sigh come from that great depth.

Passing on beauty can only bless, Beloveds.
visit HCB book club for more thoughts on this amazing book.

Comments

  1. says

    Laura,
    I’m so sorry that had to happen on your vacation.
    It’s so hard to understand how someone could invade your private space like that. It must give you a very sick feeling inside.
    I’m thankful your husband’s wallet was still there.
    I pray you will be able to have a peace and enjoy the remainder of your trip.
    That was so sweet that you and Jeffrey sang the praise song. I can picture you two sitting there.
    Love you!
    Valerie

  2. says

    How precious this is. How precious you are. I love what you and Jeff did at the beach, taking your most “prized treasure”, your favorite shell and giving it back to the sea.

    I wonder if it’s the female gene that makes us be more “robbed” than a man. Of course, I don’t know where I’d begin to restore things in my purse and wallet. The pictures and ids would be a mess to replace, if even possible. I am thinking of some pictures in my wallet and I dont’ know where the originals are.

    I guess that is all part of God’s plan…to create a partner, a husband to help us see the brighter, better, lighter side of things.

  3. says

    You have brought me to tears. Not the theft, for which I am very sorry (maybe that should have been the source of my weeping), but these words…

    “Then we chose our most beautiful shell and stood at the ocean’s edge and threw it in. As our tiny sacrifice was carried out into that deep blue, we said a prayer for blessing./I think I heard a sigh come from that great depth.”

    And too, the question of what happens if we choose to think of that-which-is-not-gift as gift. Not easy, not easy at all. But maybe life giving.

    (Btw, as per your comment on Seedlings, these ARE real lines, the ones you’d been hoping for and thinking escaped you.)

  4. says

    I am so sorry this is happening to you. You never know when the enemy will come in and try to force us onto a path we did not want to go.

    Trust God, He will provide.

    Sheryl

  5. says

    O Laura,

    While I am deeply sorry that you and your husband experienced the violation of robbery, I was blessed in the remaining of your sharing.

    The LORD is good and He is a restorer in every situation.

    You are such a precious gift…

    Love you.

  6. says

    Songs at sunrise
    Wanderings in the waves
    Giving back the grace gifts given

    Poetry of life to replace the echoes of hurt. Live well my friend, this moment. What was stolen will be redeemed – tenfold.

    Shalom,
    Denise

  7. says

    Laura~
    WOW…I had the Holy Ghosts bumps as I read this post.

    God is good…ALL the time!!

    Praising Jesus that your husband could see through the bad…and see the God…our Jesus.

    Praying that the remaining time of your trip…is BLESSED beyond measure!!

  8. says

    Oh Laura…so sorry for this interuption in your holiday, yet blessed by your interpretation.

    “Then we chose our most beautiful shell and stood at the ocean’s edge and threw it in. As our tiny sacrifice was carried out into that deep blue, we said a prayer for blessing./I think I heard a sigh come from that great depth.”

    My mind recalls another most precious gift sacrificed…an Only Son…and I’m sure a sigh of surrender was heard.

    Praying for you,
    Joy

  9. says

    I ‘m so glad that both of you are alright. Your husband reminds me of how my mom would have reacted.

    She would’ve said “Well, at least no one was hurt and God will take carry of it.”

    love and hugs~Tammy

  10. says

    Laura,
    Amazing how God’s mysterious ways teach us. I wish for you that your lesson on this did not have to include the theft, but even so, you found what you needed inside the circumstance. This is not what I expected to read when I popped over her to read your The Gift post, but it is.
    I had no idea there was so much to gift giving. Thank you for sharing your sacrifice and your blessing.
    To God be the glory!
    Love you and have a wonderful holiday!

  11. says

    You amaze me. I don’t know how long it would have taken me to get to the point you are at. I would have felt violated, icky, and mad for a LONG time. You are a lovely person. Your lessons are not lost on me.

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