Billions of Unnoticed Gifts

Billions of Unnoticed Gifts

Excessive giving reveals the unsearchable depths of God’s love, the bottomless well of his heart. Nothing is wasted simply because it isn’t noticed by us. Every gift is of value because every gift is an expression of eternal love. For you. For me. The extravagance Dillard speaks of, the extravagance that surrounds us, is the unceasing, unparalleled expression of God’s love. God is spendthrift because his love is eternal.

As I spoke recently with The Laymen’s Lounge about The Book of Giving, one point that kept coming up in our conversation was God’s prodigality (his being excessively lavish) in the good things he gives us. And what blows my mind is that the vast majority of God’s gifts go unnoticed. It’s one thing to be prodigal; it’s another to be prodigal anonymously; and it’s still another to be prodigal anonymously towards people who will miss most of your gifts. That seems like such a waste to us, doesn’t it? But there’s something deeper being revealed here.

Yesterday, the sunset that burned the underbellies of our gray-purple clouds with pink and gold, igniting them like clothes cast off from the ancient bodies of giants, drifting toward the orange horizon—how many people in our town never picked their head up to look at it? Some thousands. And yet the gift was still given. Or those two red-tailed hawks that circled just above our house, dancing with each other as if connected by a long, invisible rope—why was I the only one to see it? Or that fleeting sense of warm sunshine on my skin as I started my car—I barely paused to notice it. Why such excess, which appears to be wasted? Annie Dillard once wrote, “Beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there” (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, p. 10). But most of the time we aren’t there, or can’t be. Why does God still run the world this way?

I had to laugh when I read Dillard’s description of nature and the insects she finds in the wild.

Nature is, above all, profligate. Don’t believe them when they tell you how economical and thrifty nature is, whose leaves return to the soil. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to leave them on the tree in the first place? This deciduous business alone is a radical scheme, the brainchild of a deranged manic-depressive with limitless capital. Extravagance! Nature will try anything once. This is what the sign of the insects says. No form is too gruesome, no behavior too grotesque. If you’re dealing with organic compounds, then let them combine. If it works, if it quickens, set it clacking in the grass; there’s always room for one more; you ain’t so handsome yourself. This is a spendthrift economy; though nothing is lost, all is spent.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, p. 66

Why the extravagance? Why does God give us billions of gifts every second (even the chance to marvel at a myriad of strange insects) when most of us won’t end up seeing the majority of them? Why is God so spendthrift?

Prodigality and the Heart of God

We have to start answering all of our questions about God with the Creator-creature distinction. Our understanding of gifts isn’t his understanding. 

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