What We're Missing

This week's post by Brandon Adent, a deacon at Redeemer Church. He likes music, words, and words about music.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote on listening to sermons, about being attentive to what God is speaking through His Word and how to work towards getting the most out of it. As a part of that post, I touched on my fondness for paper Bibles. Specifically my paper Bible with rips, creases and coffee stains accumulated over nearly a decade of use.

It reminded me how much I love things I can feel.

We live in a world of automation, of comfort and ease. If you don’t own, don’t want to carry, or just straight up forgot a paper Bible on a Sunday, you can downIoad one to your phone in an instant. Most of the time, if you don’t want to go into the bank you don’t have to, and you can make a transfer in seconds. If you don’t want to read the newspaper, you can jump on the web to get the highlights, curated and tailored to your specific interests. If you don’t want to chop vegetables, you can get a machine that will do it for you, and do it better than you could.

God created us as physical beings to live and interact with physical objects, to create and steward and manage them for His glory and the good of everyone. And yet, it seems to me that we go to great lengths to rid ourselves of these cumbersome physical processes. Or, at least to get physical things that make life easier. I really, really don’t think that’s bad. But I do think we take them for granted, and miss out on opportunities to thank God for His provision.

Telling Stories

At many points in the gospels, we can hear Jesus speak in parables, basically stories with a moral or spiritual lesson. Often, He uses everyday objects and processes as illustrations. He references vine pruning, wine pressing, bird watching, bread baking, fishing, reaping and sowing. These are jobs that, if people didn’t do them themselves, they were at least aware of what they entailed.

Jesus then connects these mundane, arduous, physical processes, and uses them to say something about God and what He's doing.

When I eat bread I know that it tastes good, but I am so far disconnected from the physical process of making it that I completely forget the hours and care and ingredients went into it.

Some friends of mine recently started baking bread the old fashion way, beginning with the starter. They mix flour and water and let it sit for awhile, “feeding” it more flour as the starter expands until finally they have enough leaven to make a couple loaves of bread.

Because they’ve gone through the process of making bread and I haven’t, Jesus saying “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened”, is going to mean a lot more to them than it is to me. (Matt 13.33)

What We’re "Missing"

So, what am I suggesting? Just that we be mindful people that take the time to understand what we're missing, that know the time and effort it took someone to make what they did and be grateful to God for whatever agony they saved us.

For example, rather than write my own definition of a parable, I used Google to find a definition in about six seconds.

Google is easy, right? Just punch in what you want and see where it takes you. But, what process is that replacing?

Twenty years ago, my parents would have told me to go find a dictionary, which would have taken me a whole five minutes, and if we didn’t have a dictionary or it wasn’t in there, I would have had to ask everyone I knew until I found an answer. If those efforts proved fruitless, I would have had to carefully read all the parables, distill them down to their core elements, and come up with a definition myself. For what it’s worth, I think that process is really fun.

But I don’t have time to do it right now. So. Praise God for Google! He gave someone a vision for what internet searching could be, and gave them the mind to make it.

I’ve got another friend who’s really into woodworking, and he uses all hand tools to do it. One of his earlier projects was to make a workbench, crafted to his exact needs. I don't recall how long it took, but I know it was awhile. He came out the other side of the project with something he was proud of and a greater understanding of woodworking.

My friend loves woodworking. I do not. If I want a workbench, I will go buy a workbench. Shoot, if I want a wooden stool, I'll go buy a wooden stool.

But because of my friend, I would appreciate that stool more, knowing how much time and effort went into it, even if it was a five dollar stool machined by someone in China. Which, as an aside, is also crazy. Because that means someone figured out to make a stool that would cost me five dollars and make enough money to stay in business.

These are all examples of people, made in the image of God, doing what people do, being creators and stewards and managers of the world around them. We don’t always have the best of intentions when we do this, but God gives a lot of grace for our endeavors to work out for the benefit of others.

Being Thankful

I don't think we always have to go through the process of figuring out what we're "missing". Sometimes, we just don't care; we just need to get the thing done and move on. And that's okay.

One thing we should understand, though, is that God Himself didn't just send His Son to save us from an inconvenience, but from an impossibility.

The debt we owe for our sin is so great that no amount of mere human toil could overcome or pay it back. Jesus lived perfectly, died sacrificially, and rose victoriously for people who were and are unaware of what they owe apart from Christ.

For all of this, let's be marked by a constant gratefulness just to be alive, for the convenience and luxury we often take for granted, and the new life that we have in Jesus.