Some Assembly Required

Friday, April 15, 2011

Picture Perfect

            It was a humbling experience, to say the least.  “Tilt your head just a little to the right.”  “Chin up just a touch.”  “Smile.”  Then “click, click, click,” and we were finished; well, almost.  Next came the really painful part:  the photographer held the camera up for a few seconds so that I could preview the prints, and I was mortified!  “My hair is a mess on top.  Why didn’t you tell me that there’s a big bump in the top of my hair?!”  The photographer was obviously accustomed to dealing with women’s responses to their own pictures because he just sort of grinned, nodded his head toward his desk, and said, “Come on.  Let me show you something.”  All the while, I was thinking, “I can not send that picture out with a resume’ or put it on a business card; what was this man thinking?”
            But I did as he directed and sat down by him at his desk while he worked at his laptop.  Then, as if I weren’t distressed enough, he popped my picture up, and it filled the screen; there I was—up close and personal.  But I must admit—I was no longer concerned about the bump of hair on my head because by then, the picture was so large that the hair was the least of my concerns because I could see every wrinkle, every line, every imperfection on my 63-year-old face.  I had come into the studio thinking I looked okay; I had thought I was ready for the camera.  Then to realize that my eyebrows were lopsided, I had dark circles under my eyes (despite liberal use of concealer), and the lines around my eyes made my face look like a well-worn city map—well, it was just too much!  Had I actually been going around in my daily life looking like that, thinking that I looked at least presentable?!
            Then the master photographer began to work his miracles.  It was my most unrealistic dream coming true—right there before my very eyes!  As I watched my photographed face, I could not believe the changes that I was seeing.  First, the photographer fixed my hair! Yea!  Then slowly, the marks of time on my face began to fade:  the crow’s feet around my eyes were disappearing, the dark areas under my eyes were beginning to lighten, the jowl lines around my mouth were softened and shortened as if I were 33 again.  He even balanced my eyebrows (I could have saved the money that I spent to have them waxed); he highlighted my hair and whitened my teeth.  Yes, my teeth!  It was amazing!  This man was an absolute miracle worker with his computer program.  In no time at all, I looked 33 again (at least in the picture.)  And it was simple, fast, and painless!  I did not want him to stop; I wanted all my blemishes and problem areas corrected.  Oh, that he could work that magic on my hips!
            Later, as I thought about the incident, it dawned on me that there is an even more powerful, more loving, more important “Master” in our lives, and He really does do miracles.  Unlike the photographer, however, the real Master’s ways of changing us are not always simple; they are (in my experience) rarely fast; and they definitely are not painless!  However, they might be if we would cooperate with Him when He tries to grow us up, but so often we refuse to do that.  Instead, we dig our heels in, come up with our own plans, proceed to put them into action, and expect Him to put His stamp of approval on them.  We would all probably allow the photographer to continue to make improvements forever with no resistance from us.  So why is it that we often fight the Father when all He is trying to do is improve us?   
Sometimes our Father allows us to continue on our stubborn way, but occasionally, He does as the photographer did:  He shows us an up-close-and-personal view of ourselves, and it is not a pretty picture!  Just as I saw every wrinkle, every line, and every mark of time on my face, we are often forced to see ourselves as His willful, disobedient, envious, greedy, and unkind children.
            If He were like some earthly parents, He would probably give up on us.  But being the loving Father that He is, He refuses to let us continue in our un-Godly ways.  He wants to do true miracles for us—remove self-centered areas, shorten and soften those bad attitudes, highlight and brighten our behavior.  Then, when others see us, they would, indeed, see a perfect picture—they would see Him.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Some Assembly Required

There are three little words that will strike fear in the hearts of most adults.  Even the strongest, bravest, most adventurous adult trembles when he/she reads those three little, seemingly-innocent words—Some Assembly Required.             

Grown men have been known to leave the WalMart toy department, empty-handed, in fear and trembling after seeing those words printed on the box of some greatly desired toy.  I, myself, have seen a man and woman (husband and wife, I presumed) leave Office Depot with the wife begging for the beautiful bookcase that she had just found.  The man is marching determinedly toward the front door of the store, shaking his head from side to side, muttering something about …some assembly required. 

When our girls were little, they requested a swing set one Christmas.  You know how it is:  every year, parents end up being Santa’s helpers, much to their own dismay sometimes.  The swing set was to be my husband’s responsibility, and, as it sometimes happened with him back then, he didn’t do a lot of planning (Okay— he did no planning!) about when, how, where to take the sixteen boxes containing the pieces of the swing set to put it together.  As was his usual MO (mode of operation), he left this nifty little piece of construction until Christmas Eve night; he would have “plenty of time.”  After all, it would be just a matter of putting the poles together, hanging the swings from the top pole, building the slide, and connecting it to the structure.   No problem!  (Are you grinning yet?)

Not far behind our house was a large storage building—a very nicely-built structure of probably 20’x40’—on a concrete slab. It would be plenty large enough to hide the big Christmas surprise.  That was the logical place for this enormous project.  One small problem there that he didn’t realize until after he had unloaded all those boxes of swing set pieces:  there was no electricity in the building!  (As I said, thinking ahead was not his forte when he was younger.)   Not only did that mean no light, but there would be no heat—sitting on that concrete floor (that cold concrete floor)—in one of the coldest Decembers we had had in years.  One of my favorite snapshots (which has been lost) of all time  is of Earl sitting in that building on the floor, surrounded by—yes, many, many, many candles—trying to assemble that swing set! I’ve thought of that scene often—Earl sitting on that cold, hard floor, trying to read the instructions, deal with hundreds of pieces needed for a swing set—all by candle light.  Following instructions was not always easy for him, so he often had to stop, undo what he had done, and start all over again.  But he finally got it done, and our girls played on that swing set for many years!

Over the years, I’ve thought of that Christmas assembly project of Earl’s often and have realized that it could be likened, in so many ways, to our lives as we try to become the Christian God wants us to be.  That spiritual maturation process is all about making decisions, stopping and starting, getting things all wrong and having to go back to the very beginning to start all over again.  I have realized that growing into a mature Christian is a process that continues all our lives until we become perfect.  Of course, that perfection is attained only when we enter Heaven. 

So that’s what this blog will be about—that process of “becoming.”    I thought of the song that little children used to sing, “He’s still working on me” and remembered a scripture that went along with that song:  Philippians 1:6 became the foundation for this blog.  (NKJV) Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.