November 8, 2016
It has been a month since I have written one of these. Well, that’s not exactly true… I have started several but just… I don’t even know how to describe it. I “couldn’t” do it? That’s not right either. I mean, I could have tried but there was nothing there. I have discovered the difference between writers block and just not wanting to write. I’ve been in the second place before where I didn’t feel like sitting down and putting something to paper. My dear friend Chris Fay (who reads these) told me years ago that one of the keys to writing was to “just do it. Even when you don’t want to… just sit down and do it.” I guess so but this is the first time I have been empty. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Just… I don’t know. I have been writing these almost every week for over 4 years now and this is the first time I have dealt with “empty.” Not much fun. Anyway… I’m back. I think. So here goes.
I’m not exactly sure how old I was when the following story took place. I’m thinking 4 or 5 but that’s just a guess. My mother had been hired as a companion to a wealthy woman who was dying of cancer. I think my mom mostly sat with her and took care of basic needs. Maybe occasionally went shopping for her. On Christmas of that year my mother took me and two of my older sisters (maybe all 3 of them?) to the home of her employer. I remember it well. The woman was in bed on the second floor of her very large house. The house was dimly lit, as was her room. I thought the entire thing was scary and creepy. Do you remember what that was like as a young person? Old people, old strange people, old strange people in their beds, old strange people in their beds dying…
The truth is, when you’re young, old people are just frightening and weird. I can remember when my grandmother would make a roast with a round bone in it. My grandfather would scoop the gooey marrow out and spread it on bread and eat it. My sisters and I would gag. That falls into the “weird old people” category. In the delis around Pittsburgh they sell a form of lunchmeat called “head cheese.” Trust me… it’s not cheese! I once asked the lady behind the counter, “Who buys this stuff?” She looked around and discreetly whispered, “Old people.”
Suffice it to say I was not thrilled to be at this old lady’s house… at least until I was asked to go closer and the woman gave me a Christmas present! It’s amazing what a gift can do to the outlook of a child. All of a sudden the room wasn’t so dim, and she wasn’t so scary. (Little did I know that the gift was likely purchased by my mother.)
Before I tell you about the present I need to recount something first. I was one-year-old when Disneyland opened in 1955. For most of my childhood I thought that if I could ever go to Disneyland, my life would be complete! Disney movies, “Wonderful World of Disney” on Sunday night television, Golden Books about Mickey Mouse and friends, Mickey lunch boxes, everything Disney. Not unlike today, but still crazy… in a very different way. Anyway, back to the gift.
I tore the paper off and opened a box containing a stuffed figure of one of the 7 dwarves from Snow White. It was about 12-15 inches high. I was enthralled… until I discovered it had a music box on the back that played “Whistle While You Work.” Then I went out of my mind. It immediately went into my top 5 gifts of all time. The dwarf and I were inseparable. Well, at least for a couple of days, until I wound the key to the spring too tight and it quit working. I was as frustrated as could be. My parents were no help. “We told you not to wind it too tight.” AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!
So I did the only thing a 4 or 5-year-old could do… I operated. I cut my dwarf opened and surgically removed the metal box. (Actually it wasn’t quite that neat. I sort of tore it out.) One would think that a music box would be held together with screws that would make it easy to access the guts, but nope. There were small metal tabs on the top that were bent into the bottom. One screwdriver and some prying later… voila… music box innards! Now you might imagine that as a 4 or 5-year-old, I didn’t have much experience with this sort of thing… and you would be right. But it didn’t take me long to figure out where that spring was. And it took less time to see that it was damaged beyond repair. I was heartbroken. Yeah, I still had the dwarf but without the music box… sooooo…. he became just another broken toy.
So what on earth does this have to do with anything? Hey, just be patient… I’m working my way back here!
It occurs to me that my dwarf friend is a metaphor for our lives. One of the problems for those outside of the faith is that they do not know or believe that we human beings are irreparably broken. We may look fine on the outside but our music box is damaged. And has been since we were conceived. (Psalm 51:5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.) So, we think that if we can just throw enough money at something we can fix “it.” Or, if we can spend enough time in diplomacy, we can correct “it.” Or if we can just get the right program in place, all will be well. Sorry, but my spring is broken and so is yours. That is also true for the rest of the 7 billion people on this planet. We are all busted… damaged goods. It’s hard for me to believe that there are folks who think that human beings are basically good; all we need are the right incentives. Really? I mean, REALLY!? Open your eyes.
Don’t get me wrong. I know that there are good people around… but not anywhere close to enough to offset the wickedness in this world. And “good” is only defined by human standards which are far lower than God’s standards.
So what do we do? Simply this – recognize who the “Spring Master” is. Jesus and only Jesus is able to surgically repair our broken coils. Only Jesus can allow us to stand before God as whole, clean, righteous, unbroken human beings. Look what Paul says: 1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. Again because of the brokenness of our human condition we are all destined for the damaged toy pile. But thanks be to God… we can be repaired.
Are you feeling broken and damaged today? Maybe not. Maybe your pride is too strong for that. But if you are aware of your brokenness… go to Jesus. Cry out to Him. Allow him to cover you with his life giving blood and mercy. Get your spring fixed.
…so in Christ all will be made alive.