Everyone’s heard of The 5 Love Languages - words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, physical touch, and, wait for it, receiving gifts. Yes, receiving gifts, not giving gifts mind you, is a love language. And when it’s your language (take a look at that love-don’t-cost-a-thang list once more), you sometimes feel like one of those shallow women from the Jared commercials.
When gifts are your love language, bad gifts make you feel personally disrespected. Ask my husband about my first birthday with him. He’ll tell you about how he led me on a walk through our college campus to the wishing well and sat me down on a cement bench. We talked and talked until we didn’t, and he rummaged through his sack and pulled out a homemade card. It was super cool and all but let me remind you that my primary love language is NOT words of affirmation.
But I didn’t want to be one of those ungrateful-type of girlfriends so I just made my eyes expectant, and he got the message. “Oh, and uh, I’m working on a gift for you. It’s just not ready yet.”
For weeks my mind went wild with the idea of a gift that “wasn’t ready” from my artist-type boyfriend. Every few weeks or so, I’d mention how I was really excited and hadn’t forget, and he said he hadn’t either.
That’s because there never was a gift to forget.
The whole scenario became so absurd that by the time he could have gotten me a gift to make up for it and I’d be none the wiser, he was so defeated and embarrassed that he gave up. The next year he got me a denim bucket hat he’d purchased from a New York Street vendor, and I wondered if it was already time to play the “Really, I have everything I could want” card.
When gifts are your love language, Christmas scares you. You shore yourself up from disappointments and the sneaking feeling that “They just don’t get me.” The best you can do is level your expectations and be really specific with people, and then allow yourself one hour of smack-talking with a spouse or nonjudgmental friend after the exchange. See, these are the kind of horrible thoughts people like us have.
Last week I received an advent poem in the mail from my stockbroker. Armed with a great Chicago accent and a Catholic conscience, she is a gem of a person and analyst and, apparently, a poet. The illustrated pamphlet begins,
Please help me to make You number one on my list
when I’m thinking of others,
when I’m buying those gifts…”
She’s lost me a little here, because I need more help when I’m not thinking of others and receiving those gifts, but then somewhere in the middle she hits me,
“Please help me to adore You,
and love You more and more,
and to give You for Your birthday
whatever You are asking for.”
This makes me pause, as I wonder if receiving gifts are one of Christ’s love languages, too. I really don’t want to give a bad gift and have Jesus say, “She doesn’t even get what I’m about.”
So this year, I’m thinking of asking Jesus what he really wants for his birthday. And I’m going to try not to make empty promises or become self-defeating when I break them.
I’ll even try not to be offended if he gets too specific and takes all the fun out of it. But that doesn’t seem to be his style.