In my previous post, written just a few minutes ago, I wrote about attending the Ash Wednesday service at my church tonight. I wanted to write one more post about some additional thoughts I had during the service. Near the end of the service the pastor invited everyone forward for the imposition of ashes. Using the ashes of the palm branches from last year's Palm Sunday festivities, he drew a cross on each person's forehead. As I sat waiting for our turn to go forward, I was silently watching the people in line. And it struck me, truly for the first time, that although the human bodies of each person varied greatly (some lumpy, some wrinkly, some old, some young) the truest part of each person, their inner spirit, was completely beautiful in God's eyes. It was kind of astounding. I mean, I've known that on some level for a long time. It's a concept that most Christians have encountered at some point in their faith journey. However, tonight my eyes were really opened to that idea.
Later when I was giving my littlest boy a bath back at home, I started thinking about it again. And I thought about all the time, money, and worry we spend trying to fix up or fancy up our temporary selves. We are mortal, people!! Washboard abs or love handles, B cups or fake D cups, wrinkles or Botox, fake tan or purely pale, designer label or Walmart discount rack.........we can't take it with us. Why are we wasting our time trying to fix the part that isn't broken? Our truly broken parts are, of course, our spiritual selves. And when we spend so much time and energy worrying about fixing up our outer shells, we are throwing away the time that we could be spending getting closer to God and to other people.
When you think about it, what we're doing really makes no sense in the long run. Here's a good analogy I came up with in case I ever explain this to young children. Imagine your car is not running right. Maybe it won't even start at all. First, you go out and spend a bunch of money replacing all the tires on the car because they weren't brand new tires, so you think maybe having new ones would help. When that doesn't work, you decide to have the entire body repainted at a tremendous financial cost. After all, the paint job isn't new. In fact, there are a few scratches in the paint as well as a dent here or there. Amazingly, these changes, while improving the appearance of the car, do not fix the problem. So........you decide to delve deeper. This time you splurge for a complete overhaul of the upholstery inside your car. There are a few stains here and there, a small rip in the carpet...........total replacement should do the trick, right? While you're at it, you decide that the old upholstery color was all wrong and go with a new more updated shade.........you know, the shade that EVERY car is wearing these days. But alas, the car sits in its beautiful, non-functional glory...........mocking your naivete by refusing to budge. Finally, you bite the bullet and decide to consult a mechanic. It turns out a new battery is needed to get the car up and running again. You swallow your pride, pay the bill, and go on your merry way. Outwardly, your car looks just as beautiful as it did before the battery was fixed. In fact, no one would even know you had the battery replaced at all except for one critical detail: THE CAR RUNS NOW. So............that invisible inner change made all the difference in the world.
Now think about our bodies as the car in this example. Don't we totally spend our time changing the tires, getting new paint jobs and replacing the old upholstery but virtually NO time charging our batteries? It makes me sad that our culture is so focused on the glitz and the glam at the expense of valuing what truly matters. I read one time that while our culture is materially rich, we are spiritually poor. This was written in an article describing mission work in an impoverished country. What the American mission group found when spending time with people living in extreme poverty was quite opposite from what you might imagine. Instead of feeling that their lives were lacking, the people were actually quite happy. They had close, loving relationships within their families and with their neighbors. They did not have the distraction of material things. Therefore, they were able to focus on each other. Their culture, polar opposite to US culture, was materially poor, but spiritually rich. Something to think about.................