I barely knew him, and yet, every Christmas, he reminded me, “You are special.” The third of four children, all born in the span of just 6 years, it was impossible to get any individual attention except from this mysterious and thoughtful man.
On Christmas day, the Milwaukee relatives would arrive laden with packages for the four of us. My grandma and aunt were over-the-top generous; we each received piles of wonderful gifts. I suspect that they carefully counted the presents; none of us ever felt short changed.
As I look back, it wasn’t about quantity, an equal share or even the incredible contents of each package. I recall carefully searching under the tree for one special box. It was always meticulously wrapped in beautiful paper with an ornament dangling from it. One year, it was an elf, the next, an angel. There was only one of these boxes each year and only one recipient, me.
The package always included a a small gift tag signed, “Uncle Ed.” My great-uncle, Ed, had been named my godfather back in the days when it was important to have a family member in this role. He was busy with his own family, so we rarely saw him, but each Christmas, he remembered to send this special gift just for me. And each year I looked for this reminder that conveyed the message, “You are special.”
I’ve learned that the adults in our lives often form our earliest images of God, so it’s not surprising that my childhood image was of an older man, a distant and yet thoughtful and loving one. A God who regularly reminded me, “You are special.”
Since then, my image of the divine has evolved. At one point, I was in touch with a nurturing grandmother figure and more recently with a great flow of loving energy. Spiritual writer Richard Rohr suggests that we “transcend and include” what we learned in the earlier stages of the spiritual journey. As I reflect on this advice, it’s reassuring to find that there is still room in my collection of divine images for a great-uncle God who repeatedly reminds me, “You are special.”
If no one has told you this lately, trust that, “You are special.”
Deep peace and joy this holiday season,
Who in your life has reminded you that, “You are special?” What was your childhood image of God? Which images of the divine resonate for you today?
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