It’s late on a Saturday night. Our bare toes trace the wood, listening to the tide come in. She puts her hand on my knee. “Do you remember what you said before? That people are wild gifts?”
I nod, my hands linking and unlinking, making knots of each other in my lap. If you spend time with me, you’ll soon discover that my hands reveal almost as much about my heart as my eyes do, these small windows our bodies offer inside ourselves. I can’t help it – the harder I try to hide, bury myself inside sweaters and stiff posture, the more my heart flashes across my face, my hands, my eyes. Our bodies carry messages for us, and tonight, mine whispers, “Yeah, I remember. What about it?”
“Hil. It isn’t that you couldn’t. It isn’t that you’re less, not enough, none of that.” I nod, still squirming. “It’s just that I know you. And I know that you care. That heart of yours cares even when you don’t notice it. But you don’t get to keep a wild gift forever.”
I put my hand on top of her hand. “I know. I know, I do that.” She smiles, and through the dark I can see her eyes twinkling back the porch lights. I sigh, put my head on her shoulder. “I just so wanted to give that kind of care and attention. Is that wrong?”
She settles into our shared posture, sighing herself. “No, love. It’s not wrong. But you said yourself, it isn’t what the story holds.” She lets those words hang there, between the laughter next door and the cello humming in the house. We sit like that, silent, our eyes on the ocean.
People are gifts.
Oh, they are difficult gifts. They come with no instructions, all fragile and beautiful and broken. They come alive with questions and possibilities. People change their minds, send a thousand messages, tug at our roots and stretch us.
But I hear it again: People are gifts.
I sometimes want to hold onto these wonderful, wild gifts. We want to keep things just as they are. We want to write the story so that they always stay just as they are, just as we are, just as it is. I know how to welcome them, but I don’t know how to give them back.
But if people are gifts, if they arrive in our lives in unexpected ways, and transform us, if they bring us right to the edge of who we are, if they leave us and burn bridges and make promises and seek us… if they are gifts, we must not pretend they belong to us. We must not act as though we know best what they need, who they are, where they should go and what they should do. We must not try to write their stories according to what we wish they’d do.
For people are wild gifts from a God with wildly good purposes.
And the story belongs to Him.