The Greatest Gift
By Anthony Casperson
My birthday was earlier this week. On my birthdays, I often think about an event that happened during what I then considered to be my worst birthday ever. It was my first year of college. I lived about an hour away from the school (because my aunt and uncle said that the school was “near” them when I applied to the college).
With my Old Testament History class at 7 am, I had to leave when it was still dark out. Cruising down the highway at Missouri’s 70mph speed limit, I was alone on the road. Two full lanes just for me. It was odd, because usually there was at least someone else on the road with me and my old, hand-me-down car (that I was thankful kept getting me to school even though it wasn’t in the finest of conditions).
About halfway in my drive to class, it happened. Suddenly, in my headlights a figure appeared. It was a St. Bernard. A massive beast of a dog. I tried to swerve. The dog, however, moved in such a manner that it seemed he didn’t realize this was a dire situation.
“Is that my headlight flying over the car,” I remember thinking as the driver’s side smashed in nearly halfway to the driver’s seat. Shaken, I moved the car to the side of the road.
Half an hour drive from home. Half an hour drive from school. On a dead quiet highway when it was dark outside. And I didn’t have a cell phone at the time because I didn’t understand the value of having one.
Needless to say, I didn’t have kind words to say to God at that moment.
Not knowing what to do, I got back in the wreck and drove it the rest of the way to school. (Don’t anybody else do that. I know now that was dangerous.) Walking to my class, I passed by my advisor’s office. I explained the story to him and asked him if I could use his phone to call my dad.
Since I had driven the car the rest of the way to school, my dad figured I could drive it home. Apparently I hadn’t done a good enough job explaining the extent of the damage. He said he’d try to figure something out. So, I went about my “worst birthday ever.”
When I got home that day (nervous because of the smell of burning rubber and the fluttering of the hood), my dad looked at the car and said, “Are you sure you didn’t hit a deer?” Like I can’t tell the difference between a St. Bernard and a deer.
Anyway, he told me that while I was at school, he’d called our mechanic and asked if he knew of any cars for sale. And he did. I asked my dad if it was $2,500. (That’s an inside joke between him and me.) But to my surprise, it was under half of that. I had the money because of student loans. We bought the car, letting the worry about how to make up for using school money for transportation come later.
In one day, I’d totaled a car, found one that was less expensive than expected, and got everything transferred over. It was interesting to see how everything seemed to have fallen into place. But that money thing worried me.
A few days later, the insurance company let me know how much they were to give me because I truly had totaled the car. I was told that I was lucky. You see, when I was too young to drive, I had been gifted that car. My parents allowed the insurance on it to go down to just liability while it sat there. But they had forgotten to reinsure the car when I started driving it.
If I had gone off of the road, they wouldn’t have paid. If I had hit another car, they wouldn’t have paid. If I had hit anything other than an animal, they wouldn’t have paid. But there was no one else on the road that day. I had two full lanes to maneuver in. It was sad that I hit a dog, but it was the only way that the insurance would’ve paid.
And they gave me over twice what I had paid for my new car. I truly believe that God used that terrible moment to give me a birthday present. I called that car my birthday present from God. It seemed horrible in the moment, but God was working in the background to give me a great gift.
And whenever I think about that, the reminder of God’s even greater gift comes to mind. Perhaps it comes because my birthday is so close to Resurrection Sunday. But my mind recalls how the gift of Jesus on the cross far outweighs that birthday present.
God used that terrible moment in history to bring the present of salvation to all who accept it. I’m sure to those who followed Jesus at the time, it seemed horrible in the moment, but God was working in the background to give the greatest gift to all humanity.
In Matthew 7, Jesus speaks about how God gives good gifts. He asks what earthly father would give his son a stone if he asked for bread, or who would give a snake if the son asked for a fish. If earthly fathers are good enough to give what their children ask (usually), how much more our Father in heaven?
God gave the greatest gift in his Son, and he continues to provide for we who come to be his sons and daughters. It might not look like what we want, but he will provide. We might end up totaling our car so that he can give us a birthday present. We might come to be physically disabled so that we can focus our lives on what is truly important. Many things that seem horrible in the moment might actually be great presents from God to cause us to focus on him.
I can’t remember a birthday since that “worst birthday ever” where I haven’t thought about his gift, and how that gift compares to his greatest gift. I get a yearly reminder of how much God loves me personally, which then reminds me about how much he loves us all.
Let’s take some time to focus on God’s good gifts, including his greatest gift.