The Gift I Didn't Know I Wanted

Life was simple for the three Swindoll kids when we were young and growing up in east Houston. Neither my brother Orville, sister Luci, nor I entertained dreams of grandeur—even at Christmas. But one particular Christmas season, I began to drop hints on how great it would be to get a new rubber basketball. Back then I was in the eighth grade, and the world of athletics was opening up before my eyes.

My dad had made me an iron hoop which we screwed onto the garage out back. Actually, the diameter was smaller than regular basketball hoops in the gym, but he convinced me mine was better: “Son, if you can put the ball through this hoop, you won’t have any trouble shooting it through the ones at school.” Clever salesmanship to cover his mistake, but I bought it.

Suddenly, one raw November evening, my old tattered basketball burst. I had already patched the thing twice, which made it bounce funny, making one more patch out of the question. That’s when the hints began. 

You need to understand that my mother didn’t know zip about sports. She was a classy, cultured lady whose idea of a well-rounded education included an appreciation of the arts and a good grip on social skills, but a 15-foot jump shot? Get serious. I knew if I would ever see a new round ball under our Christmas tree, I would have to turn it on thick. 

The bathroom and kitchen got a daily mopping. The lawn began to resemble the greens at Augusta. I was borderline neurotic about every wastepaper basket in the house . . . and the trash cans got put out front a day early. The dishes? You would have thought we were getting ready to pass a White House inspection. I even set the table every evening. I mean, how many junior-highers do you know who have dishpan hands? 

And then it happened! My wandering eye observed beneath a thousand icicles a box. A brightly wrapped, correctly shaped box . . . with guess whose name on it? You’re exactly right—young Chuck, alias Bob Cousy, a.k.a. George Mikan in his dreams. 

Christmas Day never arrived so slowly. While no one was looking, I had shaken the box enough to know that it had to contain what I had been wanting so badly—right size, right weight, everything. I tore at the wrapping and ribbon, pulled open the top, and to my disbelieving eyes there it was, a world globe. Looking up at me was Italy as I recall. The exact size, shape, and weight of a basketball, but a world globe! What a thrill; all Christmas afternoon I had the joy of locating geographical spots my mom would call out . . . Singapore, Latvia, Montreal, New Zealand, the Amazon, Moscow, Delhi. 

This season, beneath many a tree are brightly wrapped surprises—some of which will seem momentarily disappointing to a little boy or girl, but time will put it in perspective . . . and many a mother’s vision for her child will one day replace his fantasy. I know. It happened to me.

What really excites me now is not a hoop and a ball but hope on a globe . . . where places like Singapore and Moscow, Delhi and Montreal will hear the story of a baby born in Bethlehem to save from their sins people of every tongue and tribe and nation. I encourage you this season to join Insight for Living as we carry the gospel around the world and spread the message of Christ’s redeeming love—the greatest gift of all!

Taken from Charles R. Swindoll, “The Gift I Didn’t Know I Wanted,” Insights (December 2001): 1. Copyright © 2001 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

About the author


Pastor Chuck Swindoll

Pastor Chuck Swindoll has devoted his life to the accurate, practical teaching and application of God’s Word. Since 1998, he has served as the senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, but Chuck’s listening audience extends beyond a local church body. As a leading program in Christian broadcasting since 1979, Insight for Living airs around the world. Chuck’s leadership as president and now chancellor emeritus of Dallas Theological Seminary has helped prepare and equip a new generation for ministry.

More articles by Pastor Chuck Swindoll