Object lessons are everywhere. All you have to do is look around. Today, for example, I found one around my very own neck.
The "object” in this case is a really lovely little Jerusalem cross on a delicate gold chain that I got last year when my husband and I visited the Holy Land. The reason I bought it was not only because I wanted a memento of my unforgettable trip, but also because I liked the idea of wearing this unmistakable symbol of my Christian faith. It was my intention to wear it every single day, even alongside my silver or pearl necklaces.
For the most part it has worked out that way. I really have had this thing on almost nonstop for the past eighteen months, usually all by itself. I get lots of compliments on it too, which of course gives me a chance to explain where I got it and what it means to me. But every now and then I hit a snag – literally. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with this particular icon, let me describe it to you. A Jerusalem cross, you see, is actually a grouping of five crosses – one large one in the middle, and four smaller ones in each corner. Supposedly the large cross represents Christ, while the four little crosses stand for the Great Commission to spread the gospel to the four corners of the world.
The problem is that those four little crosses, at least the ones on my piece of jewelry, are so tiny and intricate that they have a tendency to get tangled up in the chains of my other necklaces. I remember this one time I had it on with some really cool, colorful beads, and honestly if I'd swung back and forth upside down from a trapeze bar I couldn't have gotten those two chains twisted together any tighter. It took me about half an hour to surgically separate them, and even then I had to use a pair of tweezers and a magnifying glass.
As a result, I've kind of gotten to a point where I'm reluctant to wear the cross with anything else. Whenever I start getting ready I select whatever necklace goes with my outfit. Then, before putting it on I mentally assess how it's going to "get along” with my Jerusalem cross. And I'm ashamed to admit that more and more, I've taken to removing the cross altogether, just to make things easier. In fact, I did that very thing earlier this morning. To pair such a dainty piece of jewelry with a chunky double strand of turquoise coral was just asking for trouble, so off went the cross. Just like that. Conflict averted.
The "lesson”, of course, is that I do the very same thing in my walk with God. Sure, I'm all for boldly "wearing” my faith as long as it matches everything else – like when I'm at Bible study or at lunch surrounded by like-minded friends. But what about those times when it doesn't necessarily go with the group I'm with? Far too often I choose to leave it behind.
A perfect illustration of this occurred a few weeks ago when I was invited to be the program speaker at a spring luncheon. I decided to give this hilarious talk about the various bouts with "bad hair” that I've encountered over the course of my life. It was purely just for fun, but that doesn't mean I couldn't have woven in some message about outward beauty vs. inward beauty, and which one matters most to God. Instead, fearing that my Christian message would get all tangled up in the humor one, I sized up my audience and determined this wasn't the place for "spiritual matters”, so I deliberately put the "relationship with God” part of me aside and only brought out the silly side instead. True, those women did get a good laugh, and I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that. But they didn't come away from my presentation any better off than before they came, and for that I'm truly sorry.
Now supposedly the whole point of an object lesson is to learn something from it, and for me this is it: My faith is not merely an accessory to be added when it suits me. It is an intricate part of who I am. Therefore, from now on I'm going to wear my faith more boldly. And if it gets tangled up with everything else in my life – fine. In fact, I can't help but think that's the way God intended it!
"Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” Proverbs 3:3-4