Wednesday, January 7, 2009

from the archives: the faith that comes from obedience

The mug which inspired this post is long gone, broken on our hard white tiles, and has been replaced with new mugs, but none have quite taken its place. This is an ode to a favourite mug and a lesson long remembered.

I have a beautiful thing, a mug with an oddly curved handle. It is the perfect size, the perfect weight, the perfect shape for my morning coffee. It is patterned with a delicately stylised tracery of leaves and flowers.

It has a chip on its rim.

Six months ago I would have noticed the sharpness against my lips and been irritated. Not just by the jarring sensation of roughness where I expected smoothness, but also by the fact that my perfect mug's perfection was now blemished. I would have made a mental note to go and buy another perfect mug to replace the damaged one.

But today I noticed the chip and, instead of being an imperfection, it became a symbol of value. An indication that I have treasured this lovely object, that it has been used many times and bears the signs of cherished age, that it is more beautiful for having been loved.

And I realised how insidiously our disposable culture - where a damaged object can be instantly and cheaply replaced with a quick trip to the shops, rather than mended and used again and again - teaches us to value that which is new, young and perfect over that which is old, worn and restored. A devaluing of the aged which is subtly transferred to people as well as objects.

I also noticed the changes that the practice of self-control has wrought in me. How something as simple as not buying new things for half a year has transformed the way I see the world. How an object which was once worthless and only fit for throwing out has become something to treasure. How what was once a difficult struggle for obedience has become a joyful freedom.

Obedience not only comes from faith, it also reinforces faith. Enacted truth, it helps us see God's truth more clearly. It creates a subtle shift in perspective. It remakes the world in new and startling ways. We begin to see the world as God sees it.

Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:31-32


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