What if every person and every life situation presented to you is a gift from God? – Neale Donald Walsh
Usually when I think of a gift it’s something that brings me instant joy or gratification. I think that most of us were programmed at an early age to think that way; at least in the world I lived in.
As a young boy, I remember being so excited with anticipation as the holidays rolled around and I got to unwrap all my gifts. Each time I opened an article of clothing or a book, I would quickly toss it to the side and move quickly to the next beautifully wrapped present, hoping it was one of the toys I had been eagerly awaiting for the prior two months or so.
I had one grandmother who always got me exactly what I wanted. One year it was a creepy crawler kit where I could make my own little rubbery bugs and creatures to freak my sister out. Another time she got me this life-sized robot that shot suction-cup darts that would stick to the wall. It’s funny how the gifts I loved the most seemed to be the ones that annoyed my mom the most. Mom and Gram always had a strained relationship so I suspect that Gram got an added benefit from getting me those gifts.
My other grandmother was very practical and she always got me the not so cool gifts. You know, the ones that I actually needed but never wanted. Things like jackets, boots, and mittens that kept me warm, over the next several months were never on my radar. It wasn’t until much later in life that I came to appreciate the gifts I never wanted.
Today, at 58 years old I’m blessed with the gift of hindsight that allows me to see that those have always been my greatest gifts. Here are a few of the other gifts I never wanted.
I never wanted to be a rape and incest victim at 8 years old. Spending three years of my childhood being raped and abused by an uncle taught me forgiveness and compassion at a level that I don’t expect I would have otherwise known. Today, I see those virtues as my greatest gifts and I use them every day in my work and in my life.
I never wanted to watch my best friend die in my arms from a gun-shot wound. That experience taught me how temporary and precious our time on this earth is and has given me motivation to make the most of my short time here. It’s also shown me that we never die, we just move on to the next leg of the journey.
I never wanted to go to prison. I got locked up at a time when my addictions were at their peak and I probably wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for prison. I credit prison with saving my life.
I never wanted to be an addict. Despite what others may think I have never known addiction to be a choice for any of the thousands of addicts I’ve known. While I agree it is usually a known risk when we made the choice to use, I also believe that for most, it was a risk worth taking to alleviate a greater pain that no one else can possibly know because they didn’t feel it. The gifts I’ve received from over two decades of addiction are far too many to list in this blog. The most significant two that come immediately to mind are the awakening of my soul and the relationships with other awakened souls. There are no other people on this planet, I’d rather be surrounded by than those who walked through the hell fires of addiction and came out on the other side. These are my people and I’m honored to be one of them.
Today, I’m being asked to receive and embrace another gift I don’t want because the last thing in the world I want is to see my own children suffer like I did.
It seems like no matter how many times it has been shown to me, I will always struggle with the current gift I never wanted. I guess that’s because we humans have the ability to take our worst nightmares about the past and the future and make them our reality.
The truth is, having addicted children has made me a better father, a better husband, and a man of faith and purpose. And who am I to think that my children won’t receive the same gifts from their addictions that I received from mine?
I’m guessing that someone or something way smarter than me is filling the shoes that my parents and grandparents used to fill so well, many years ago by giving me what I need and not what I want.
My part is to just continue asking the question, “What is the gift I’m refusing to accept?” and know that one day, I’ll likely know the answer.
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