Giving a gift can be tricky. If we want to give gift that is useful and meaningful, we must know the receiver and their needs. Sometimes we receive gifts that we know are given with the best of intentions. But what do we do with them?
Several years ago, my husband was deployed to Bosnia. When he came home, he brought me several gifts, including a large decorated wooden box. It was beautiful but it was too large for our limited shelf space. I put it on the very top of our entertainment center, the only place with enough room but too far up to really appreciate it or use it.
My husband was disappointed. He had been selective about what to get me and thought I didn't like it. I tried to explain why I put it out of the way. He suggested I use it as a jewelry box or a recipe box. I made excuses. I already had a jewelry box and I didn't want it in the kitchen where it might get dirty or damaged. He let it go but I knew he was disappointed.
Soon we moved to another duty station. Our quarters had even less space for displaying out treasures and the box ended up in a closet shelf. I did make more effort to use if, putting photos and other small momentoes in the box. But it was out of sight and, usually, out of mind.
We moved again. I still had not forgotten my husband's gift and made more effort to use the box. I decided he was right about the jewelry box. I transferred my things into the box and got rid of the other one. Now I had the box on my dresser, in plain view. I had to open it every time I needed a pair of earrings and when I put them away later. I thought of my husband every time I walked into the room and saw the box. I remembered his gift for me. I remembered that it was a gift of love, something he thought I needed wanted me to use.
I didn't appreciate my husband's gift right away. It took effort on my part. It was for me, not him. He had given it to me and wasn't going to take it back. He wanted me to use it but didn't force me to do anything with it. If that gift sat on a shelf for the rest of my life, unused and neglected, that was my choice. Once I made the effort to use it, I couldn't imagine life without it.
There are other gifts that could fit into this scenario. The most important is the gift of our Savior's Atonement. Just like my box, the Atonement is given freely for us to use but we must make the effort. We must choose to give it a prominent place in our lives, something we can not imagine life without. It is a gift of love, given freely because it is something we need. It is not forced upon us, nor is it taken back if we don't use it. Making the Atonement an integral part of our daily lives takes effort and thought. The more we apply it in our lives, the more meaning it has for us. It becomes a constant reminder of the love our Heavenly Father and his Son have for us.
My wooden box is not the only one ever made. There are similar boxes available to tourists all over Europe. Does that make mine less special? No. My box is for me and me alone. It would not have the same value for anyone else. Neither is my relationship with the Savior any less unique because he is the Savior of all.
During this holiday season, when we are giving and receiving gifts, I hope that we can all remember the true meaning of that tradition. I hope that whatever gifts we accept and use, the Atonement will be the one we use the most.