A family member recently was complaining to me that no one in the family wanted her silverware. She had spent so much money over the years acquiring it and now she couldn’t give it away. Thinking she would like someone to appreciate it, I said, “I’ve actually been thinking of buying a set of real silverware! (which was the truth) I’d love to give yours a good home.”

To my surprise her response was that she needed to ask someone else if they wanted it first. Not much time passed and I got a call saying that the other family member wanted me to have it, but I could tell there was a hitch.

“I’d like for you to USE the silverware and then after 20-30 years when you’re done using it I want you to give it to my grandchildren.” I was speechless. “Did you hear me?” she said, “Can you promise me you’ll pass it along like I want you to and not give it to a stranger?” I still didn’t respond. I was dumbfounded. Suddenly, what had seemed like a lovely gift that I would have made good use of felt like a binding contract!

I realized that in the past I’d given in the same way, and how it not only wouldn’t feel good to receive such a gift, it wouldn’t be a good feeling for the giver either. These words entered my mind, “A gift given freely is truly a gift. A gift given with conditions is a burden.” I decided that I wanted to be able to give anything in my possession to anyone at any time, so I politely declined the gift.

As I continued to reflect on this lesson, I realized a deeper significance – the giving of conditional versus unconditional love. When Paramhansa Yogananda met Swami Sri Yukteswar, his guru asked if he would give him his unconditional love. Yoganandaji’s response was, “Sir, what if I should ever find you less than a Christlike Master?” To which Sri Yukteswar said sternly, “I don’t want your love. It stinks!”

How often do we offer our love to God and Guru without asking for anything in return? “When will you come to me?” “I want to feel Your presence.” “Free me in this lifetime.” etc.

Paramhansa Yogananda said, “Don’t ask, ‘When will God come to me?’ Don’t think, ‘I’ve meditated all these years and still He hasn’t come to me.’  When you love God only for the sake of loving God, then He will come to you.”

As we say in our vow of discipleship, “Ah, too long, Mother, have I sought Thee for myself, not for Thy love.” Let us give freely of our greatest gift of all – our love. And to the Giver behind all gifts, let us give with only the thought, “I love You, my Infinite Beloved.”

P.S. So, what happened to the set of silverware? You’ll have to check back for a future blog for the answer to that question!

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