Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Best Gift You Can Give

The other day, I found this beautiful drawing on the Twittersphere, titled "The Pyramid of Intimacy." Behold, in all of its beauty:

Follow @jackiefrancois on Twitter (she's a great Catholic musician)

There's lots to love about it, from JP II looking awesome in the bottom right speaking truth (I love how the drawing captures his humility), to the scripture references in the top left. But what caught my eye was the phrase "love begins here" scribbled in red, with an arrow pointing to the bottom of the pyramid - to Friendship. Love between two people shouldn't begin when they get engaged, or when they start dating. It should begin in friendship - in their initial relationality with each other. This pyramid should exist only as something that two married people can look back on and say "hey, that's neat," and never as something looked at merely from the outset of meeting someone. As Cartoon Pope says, "let every man look first upon woman as "sister" then as possible bride." But why?

Of all the (many) brilliant things that my professors have said this term, one that stuck out to me was what Dr. David L. Schindler said last week: "You can't have a friendship with someone if you don't know how to waste time." Our culture today is such a work-a-holic culture - we're restless unless we're doing something, trying to better our estate; it's been yelled at us for so long that we always need to work to improve, and that if we are simply playing or "not doing anything," then we are just wasting our time. 

But I agree with Dr. Schindler, that in this sense, we need to get back to a mindset where we are more comfortable with wasting time; to a place where we are not trying to "do something useful." If we really enter into our relationship with God, who created us out of nothing, we will find that we are totally dependent on Him, and only in Him can we find our true selves. We would realize that God does not want us to do something useful. God does not want us to do - he just wants us to be. Because you know what? In a certain sense, that we exist as human beings means that we aren't useful. As Bad Catholic has said, Humans Are Useless. Humans "...are the only creature on Earth which God willed for itself" (Gaudium et Spes 24). God wills our existence for our own sake. We are to interact with our fellow man and to form a relationship with him, not for our sake, but for his. 

"You can't have a friendship with someone if you don't know how to waste time." How awful would a friendship be if you only interacted with the other person because you gained from it? In fact, if you were using a person, I wouldn't even call it a friendship. I'd call it abuse. Dr. Schindler's favourite example on how to not do this is to sit on a porch with a friend. That's it. Waste time. I love that. The only thing that you really need to be doing is being. Experience the other person's existence as other; receive that person's existence fully and give yourself back to them, for their sake (OMG they're called to do the same thing for you, so this whole thing is reciprocal?!). A person's very existence is complete gift - it is not owed to you. They are a gift to you, and you are called to be a gift to them. You shouldn't look at say, that person you really like, and want to get to know them only because you have in mind the possibility that you will someday hold their hand, or receive Valentine's Day Bacon Bouquets from them.

Although it is tempting.
You need to want to get to know someone for the sake of getting to know them. You need to want to get to know someone because they are worth the world in the eyes of God, and you owe it to this person to get to know them. As is usually the case (read: always the case) with Christianity, it all comes back to Love. The extent to which you are not experiencing a person for their own sake is the extent to which you are using that person as a means to an end. The extent to which you are using that person as a means to an end is the extent to which you are thinking about yourself. The extent to which you are thinking about yourself is the extent to which you are not thinking about the other person. And the extent to which you are not thinking about the other person is the extent to which you are not loving them.

Christmas is fast approaching, and as per usual, stores are decorated, songs are playing, and Christmas trees are lit up. And yes, presents are being purchased, wrapped, put under the tree. Wonderful expressions of love, of giving and receiving. But we always need to think of a more personal gift that we can give to our loved ones this Christmas, one that centers on the inherent goodness of the human person, made in the image and likeness of God. The best gift that we can give is ourselves - and in doing so, letting the other person be.


  1. Thats really interesting. I never thought of it that way. Thanks Jer!

    Btw......when are you coming back to visit your favourite life teeners?

  2. Do you eat them or...just smell them?