Sunday, December 13, 2015

My Vision of the Pencil

“The end of a matter is better than its beginning”—Ecclesiastes 7:8

During the worship portion of a church meeting I attended (12/6/2015), I saw an image of a brand new shiny pencil.  It was pristine, unsharpened, and with a full and unrubbed eraser.  It was made perfect for the task it was designed to do, but not in its native manufacture.  Potentially, this new pencil had much to say, and many problems to solve in its lifetime, but until it is circumcised down to a sharp and specific point for functional utility, it remains native and useless for spiritual testimony and story.

Then I saw another pencil sharpened to a useful point.  A loss of its mass, a shortening of its length, and a narrowing—progressively from its exterior through its intermediate substance all the way to the core—paved the way for function above fashion, and utility above beauty.  A pencil conformed to its purpose has at either end of its extent a job to do, to either write stories at one end, the point, or eliminate mistakes at the other end, the eraser.  And for all of us, both ends get used, and therefore both ends, because of their respective utilizations, also diminish with age.  Thus, this pencil begins to fade away, but as it shrinks—as it records many stories and solves numerous problems—its fame, in direct proportion to the extent it gives itself away, grows.

Finally, I saw a stubby little pencil whittled down to almost nothing.  Its eraser was gone, rubbed clear out of its socket.  But thankfully, this pencil was faithful and its ministry complete, so though it was now useless, it will never again be useless like its uncircumcised beginning.  Before it was sharpened for service it had only potential, but now, though it no longer holds a point, its full and mature story is told point by point from natural to supernatural wording and native to alien language.

And such it is for any and all of those who obey the Lord’s command to endure to the end.  By the time most of us finish the race, we are shells of our former selves.  And rightly so!  Did not the Lord declare to us that “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it, and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it [?]” (Luke 17:33).  Moreover, we must lay down our lives for the family of God, not in theory, but in tangible reality.  We must, like Paul the Apostle, minister with zeal and commitment, enough to declare, “I will very gladly spend and be spent for you” (2 Corinthians 12:15).

In summation, God in man, solidarity in fragility, is the context of our story, the story of our life written by us by fragile pencil first written by the Spirit of the Lord in indelible ink upon our hearts.  Mercy triumphing over judgment is our story.  And because we are empowered, not by our splendid personality or our ingenious works, but by God’s mercy toward us, we faint not.  Indeed, our story is about renouncing “the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God ... For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants ... But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:2,5,7).

Thus, our story is His story with us graciously inserted into it.  The graphite or lead at the core of our person is infused with Christ and His blood.  The sharpening both shreds the exterior and exposes the interior, but even in that process, the interior loses mass and narrows focus to spiritual reality.  Our life, like our Lord’s, has a transcendent purpose, and therefore what we lose on earth temporarily (our pencil existence), we gain in heaven permanently (the story and testimony that our pencil wrote).  Spending and being spent is the modus operandi of our life’s work.

We would rejoice rather than cry if we only believed that “our light affliction [was] but a moment,” and that it worked “for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;” also we would do well to “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).  Ultimately, we write our own story, and the more that story flows from our heart—the more the blood of Christ bleeds into our expression—the more indelible and perfect it will read.  But to write in His blood is to write in our blood too, and to write in blood is to die to self all along the way.  Paul died daily, and his letters became indelible because of it.  We also must die daily if our book is to be immortalized.  Moreover, we must not faint until we have written our story to the last line of the last chapter of our mortal existence.  Only then, perhaps, can we genuinely appreciate how “our outward man perishes” while our “inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).