A few years ago we were asked, "What is the most memorable Christmas gift you've ever given or received?" Instantly our minds raced backwards over invisible tracks and skidded to a stop at the same intersection: Our first Christmas together as a couple, in 1972.
Our Christmas tree that year was sparsely decorated with a dozen red ornaments. The small living room was quiet, but warm. A scant few presents lay scattered under the Scotch Pine tree. There were no screams of small children, no ripping of paper, and no Christmas music playing (we couldn't afford a stereo).
Neither of us have any recollection of what prompted us, but evidently the Spirit of God wanted us to dedicate and commemorate our new life together in Jesus Christ. So we decided that before we would give each other our gifts, we would first give God the most valued gift we possessed: Each of us, individually, spent some time writing out the "Title Deeds to Our Lives."
It wasn't easy, that bare-bones honesty with God. We wrote down all that we desired, all the things we thought were important, and said we wanted to give them to Him. Then, folding and placing those two sheets of paper in an envelope, we wrote on the outside: To God Our Father.
We sealed the envelope, and then we verbalized together in prayer what had already taken place privately in our hearts.
The envelope remained sealed, securely stored in a safe deposit box with all our other important papers.
The Perishable and the Imperishable
Eighteen years later we retrieved what had become our most treasured two sheets of paper.
Reading the lists on those two pages, we were immediately struck by two things. First, we noticed how silly and shallow some of the things were that we deemed valuable and difficult to give up to God. Dennis' list, for example, included the following:
- Nice big house
- To ski well
- Nice furniture
- Sharp clothes
- New car
- Easygoing job
It was striking to see this preoccupation with material things. Looking back over our years together, it was fascinating how God had continuously sought to wean us from that which is perishable and replace our values with the imperishable: people and His Word.
Other items that Dennis listed were not so shallow:
- Success in ministry
- Stay healthy
- A healthy big family
- My own life
Barbara's list, meanwhile, included things that are passing away, but more of hers got to the core of life:
- Children — at least one boy and one girl
- To live to see my children grow up
- To be settled and stable
- To be an outstanding couple and family
The second thing that surprised us as we read the lists was how much more God has given us than what we gave up. We immediately thought of Ephesians 3:20, which reads, "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us."
We hope you have a wonderful Christmas this year. And as you go through the holiday season, think about whether you have settled the question of ownership. Who has the title deed to your life and possessions? Why don't you formalize your commitment to Jesus Christ?
You will discover, as we have, that it's the most important gift you'll ever give. It will change your lives.
Dennis and Barbara Rainey helped found FamilyLife, where Dennis serves as president. The Raineys have written numerous books, including Moments Together for Couples, Moments with You, Staying Close, and Building Your Mate's Self-Esteem.