Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually; you have given the commandment to save me. Psalm 71:3 (NKJV)
Paul knelt down with them all and prayed.There was much weeping among them all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, grieving especially because of what he had said, that they would not see him again. Then they brought him to the ship. Acts 20:36–38
For me, human relationships are God’s greatest gifts.
The connections I have with others are the single greatest source of joy in my life…my spouse, my children, my friends, my coworkers, my colleagues…these relationships shine light into my world when I think it is dark. Those people are the most constant reminder in my life that God is near.
This truth is expressed in a church marquee sign I saw during the Christmas season years ago…it said:
“The gifts of God come wrapped in people.”
While that’s a beautiful Christmas message, playing on the image of wrapping paper, and pointing to the child as “Emmanuel” (God with us), I also experience it to be a daily reality.
In the passage from Acts above, Paul is leaving Ephesus for the last time. He has just told them he will not see them again, as he is headed to Jerusalem and is fairly sure persecution and trouble await him there. I am moved by the raw emotions in the passage. There are hugs, kisses, and tears. The relationships Paul had were real, raw, and human…like our own.
However, just a few verses earlier, Paul had reminded them that those relationships are only vessels for the real source of life and love:
“And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified.”
Like the moon only reflects light from the sun, so the beauty and joy I experience in my human relationships are a reflection of a Love that has its source elsewhere. Like wrapping paper that hold the gift, the individual imperfections of the people I know and love (and the one writing these words) aren’t the point. They are holding something so much more beautiful. None of us belong on a pedestal. But the love between us is real. It’s powerful. It’s a gift to me. It’s not about them, and it’s not about me. It’s about the gifts of God, wrapped in people.
So, I am grateful today…for God’s gifts in my life and the people that carry those gifts inside of them. If you are one of those I count as family, friend, or colleague…I give thanks for you today, and the ways you reflect Christ’s love in my life.
God, help us to be grateful for others today. For family, even when they are difficult…for friends, even when relationships are strained. Help bridge the gaps between us and others. Soften our hearts to forgive. Open us to each other, that we may enjoy the blessings that come in genuine human love and care. Amen.