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No strings attached

What coconuts have to do with God's free gift

Picture this if you will. It’s 5.15am (why does everything happen so early in the morning?), it’s dark, it’s raining, and it’s hailing rocks… wait. In Tuvalu? Melbourne maybe, but not here.
Well that’s what the sound of a coconut hitting the roof sounds like.
BANG, there goes another, BANG, another.
What? One or two maybe in a storm or cyclone, but it’s just a passing shower.
Get up, shorts on, out we go again.
Oh I see, Ene, one of the Tuvaluan lads from the Patrol Boat is up the tree beside my house doing a great job lopping off the multitude of lush, green coconuts just ripe for drinking. Happy days.
Job done, he slides down, and standing in the pile at our feet, knocks the top off a couple and we share a coconut breakfast. I stand amazed, not only at his skill with the knife (how does he chop the coconut and not his fingers?), or the strength of his teeth (he literally ripped a coconut apart in his mouth to chew on the sweet flesh), but also by the generosity and joy in this young fella.
“Thanks mate—you want to take all these coconuts?” Assuming, of course, this was his reason for doing such an act.
“Oh, take some then.”
“No, just this one.”
“Umm, why did you lop them down then?”
“Just needed doing, otherwise they will bang on your roof (got that right). Besides, I love going up trees, it’s good exercise.” (Yeah, right)
“Mate, you’ve done a great job, can I pay you?”
Blank stare.
“Ash, I also love coconuts, we make our own Toddy.”
For the uninformed, like me, Toddy is the highly concentrated juice slowly milked from the coconut tree. Ever see a coconut tree with bottles hanging up there? Toddy.
Pity the bottle also often ends up with alcohol in it as well.
But the fresh version is like honey or treacle, only unbelievably coconut sweet—a real treat.
“Oh, I love Toddy.”
“Yes, then I will bring you some.”
I fell into the oldest trap in the book; tell a Polynesian you like something and they will nearly always give it to you, no matter the cost.
“No, no, I will pay for it—buy it off you, hey?”
“Ahhh, you pelangis, you always think you have to pay for something!”
No coconut on the roof this time, the BANG was my acute awareness that I, the pelangi, had just been respectfully and wonderfully put back in my box—a real God moment where a seemingly innocuous comment carried so much weight that causes so much after thought and reflection.

Coconut trees in Tuvalu

Do we accept God's offer, no strings attached?
Ene was so right.
He did me a big favour, blessed me something fierce, expected nothing in return, and I go and offer what in our culture is a proper offer—but in his culture is almost an insult.
You see, in Tuvalu, people do stuff for each other—especially family—without thought of payment or gain, other than the sense of communal love and sharing. Sure, people work for money, but so much is done unseen, unpaid and for reasons other than self. I have a distinct sense this is far more biblical than my westernised approach to life.
It makes me question what the currency of love is in Tuvalu? The answer is yet to be found, but my first guess is food and giving.
It also makes me question what my currency of love is?
Money? Power? Position?
My answer to Ene reveals much:
Was I simply responding out of a different worldview, or was I subliminally setting the boundaries between us? Me: money, power, position. Ene: subordinate, servant, service provider?
Was I ducking and weaving that thing we in west dread—indebtedness?
Was I responding in love, as God calls us all to do, or simply out of self—those coconuts sure do look and taste good?
Rhetorical questions I know, but for me they are well worth ruminating on, if only to keep me honest and open, learning and loving. What do you think?
Anyway, Ene goes home with his coconut and a smile, and I go share the story with family.
Ene offered a free gift, cheerfully given, no strings attached.
I accepted the offer, but only on my terms it would seem, definite strings attached.
God offers a free gift, sacrificially given, saving and strengthening strings attached.
Do we accept the offer, no strings attached?

- Ash

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