It has happened before, and it will happen again. Every once in a while I am overwhelmed by the sudden realization that humans are hopelessly silly. This time it happened while I was stringing tiny beads onto a very fine thread.
My best friend was driving us away from the city, back to our small-town college. The main purpose of the trip had been to get stuff to make us gorgeous for the upcoming Valentine’s Day dance. I had borrowed a beautiful red dress from my sister, and found myself with no matching jewelry and not much money to spare, so I decided to do what I usually did—make my own. So there I was, going seventy-five miles per hour along the road, checking in the flip-down mirror to see whether or not the choker I had just finished looked acceptable draped around my neck, and wondering if I should make a matching bracelet. That’s when it hit me.
Where did necklaces originate, I wonder? Who was the first person to think that wrapping something pretty around one’s neck would be attractive? And where did bracelets come from? It occurred to me that humans wanted to be noticed, so they adorned themselves with jewelry, not where their bodies were most attractive, but wherever it wouldn’t fall off. When you think about that, doesn’t it sound silly? The reason I’m wearing a chocker is because my neck is a skinny appendage that will hold a decoration. Same with bracelets, anklets, rings. That thought led to thinking about piercings. People pierce every thin flap of skin they can find. And what is it, really? A piercing is a piece of metal stuck through any convenient body part to help the wearer look exotic. Doesn’t it seem ridiculous? We’ve made ornaments for every part of us that we possibly could.
Then I started thinking about makeup, clothes, everything. Sure, we paint our faces to cover up what we don’t want people to see and show off the stuff we like. The right pair of jeans will make a girl’s booty look big, her thighs look small, and her legs look long. Just that morning I had spent an incredible amount of my precious college cash on body jewels. It was nothing inappropriate, just a sparkly heart or two to put on my back or face for the Valentine’s dance. I wanted to glitter! It’s what people desire. Makeup, jewelry, tattoos, hairdos, bows, bells, whistles… and I couldn’t help thinking that the closer we get to becoming the ultimate decoration, the further we get from looking human; the further we get from how we are made, how God intended us to be.
Strangely enough, the pastor’s sermon that night followed the same reasoning. He talked a little about physical appearance, but then looked at the bigger picture. It’s all a façade, he told us. Like Disneyland. In the park you see princesses and talking animals and adventure and magical lands. You enter on Main Street, USA, where life was never really so perfect. People don’t see what the speaker had seen, behind the scenes. In the back there is a service entrance, and here are the real things that make up the glitter and sparkle of Disneyland. Here are the dangerous explosives that make the magical fireworks. Here are the dirty broken-down cartoon seats from roller-coaster cars that no longer function. Here is Goofy, holding his head under his arm and smoking a cigarette.
Here is Disneyland, a microcosm of the façade of life that is just a little exaggerated. From the entrance, we are bombarded with what people call perfect. Main Street, USA, the road to happiness! Happiness requires money and intelligence and good looks and success and sex appeal! It requires a well-paying job and a perfect family unit! These things together make up the ideal outfit for the dance, and if you’re missing just one aspect, you are incomplete! This is the false front of life. Like a pretty dress and matching accessories, none of these things are wrong and many are quite admirable. But looking to them to find happiness is a huge mistake. People always want more. Both the secular and Christian societies know that wealth does not bring perfect happiness. If it could be found through sex, of all people the prostitutes would be the most content. Even if people look great, they will always need to be more beautiful. They need a better job! They need more success! I need a necklace to match my new dress! I need more body jewels so I sparkle all over!
The truth is we can’t obtain perfection or happiness on our own. We’re not perfect, and the only way we can accomplish things is for God to work in us.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” 2 Cor 4.7
But what about all this work I went to? The jewelry I made, the shoes I borrowed, the cash I spent on the embellishments? The good grades I worked at all my life, just so I could get into a tough college and make more good grades, just so I could get an exhausting but financially rewarding job? All the work I put into my system for locating Mr. Right, so I can find love and have the perfect life? Sorry, but I’ve got my future all planned out! I can’t afford to hand over the reins now. I’m practically dressed for this dance, body glitter and all.
That’s where the faith comes in.
“We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore I have spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise us also up by Jesus, and shall present us with you… For this reason we faint not; but though the outward man perish, the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction (which is but for a moment), worketh in us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things that are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Cor 4.13-14, 16-18
Faith means we know God won’t abandon us. True faith is faith in God’s Faithfulness, trusting that he will keep his promises to us. Because of this we can loose the tight hold we have on our expectations and give him control. Because of this we can take our eyes off of the façade and look at what really matters. Because of this we know that no matter how bad things are on the outside, God will always take care of our hearts and our joys. The trials of this world only last for a little while, and then our Abba takes us to be totally perfected and established forever in heaven.
While I listened to the preacher and thought about God’s promises, it seemed like an apostle had written a letter directly to me. God is faithful, Christian, God is faithful. Rejoice! God is faithful. Remember this, and do not faint. Do not be discouraged. Take heart, for God is faithful.
Do not faint, do not be discouraged. Take heart, for God is faithful.
Take heart, my Daughter, for I am faithful.