Psalms 51:6 “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being…”
No matter what country you live in around the world, we each have a mechanism or custom in our culture in which to hide our true selves. Some hide themselves through appearance, whether it be makeup; false tan; or maybe any on-trend styling of hair or body. Sometimes, education is a high value and therefore, a loaded resumé with a variety of initials following your name or possible educational writing submissions could provide needed cover from society’s spotlight. For the younger generation, it has become easy to hide one’s true self behind the anonymous social media feeds. One can portray any persona they would like on various platforms and therefore hide behind that curtain.
When we arrived in France, we immediately were captivated by the ability of people to make any food plate look absolutely delicious! As many “foodies" have well said, “We eat with our eyes first,” and I was enthralled by the idea that by taking just a little more time with the presentation it could, in fact, make that plate of food and the table look even more tempting. Presentation is a high value in the French culture, whether it be on the dinner table or even in fashion. French styling tips, specifically for women, have been highly sought after and emulated for generations and is something this country-bred woman has been trying to define and figure out for over fifteen years. ;)
When we started this journey of “overseas” pastoral ministry close to twenty years ago, we were a married couple just entering our 40’s with school age children in tow. We had plans of doing ministry for a certain designated period of time and then exiting to return home to help our children transition through university. We saw the ministry ahead with eyes that focused on the external - accomplishing a goal that was definable and trackable. We boarded that plane in Philly weary eyed, but with hearts that were spit-shined and ready for anything. But you know, throughout the years we have been found, like so many around the world, to have been tumbled around quite a bit. Sometimes, it has even been hard to truly know what end is up and have found ourselves fervently gasping for breath just to survive.
The Lord placed us in a thriving and growing city in the south of France after having been initially commissioned to serve in Luxembourg, which is a landlocked country. Because of God’s hand, we currently have the ability to enjoy the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea. One of my most favorite things to do on the beach is to walk the coastline in search for sea glass. I have a large glass jar displaying the beautiful colors that the sea has freely given to me. Our family had a good laugh when we visited the restaurant “Cracker Barrel" on one of our home visits and found in it’s storefront a book exclusively displaying and talking about sea glass. The family was so tempted to buy it for me, saying that I certainly could have contributed to the book and I was just encouraged that there were other people on earth who found joy in these simple free treasures!
Throughout the years, I have come, in some small weird way, to relate to the analogy of these broken pieces of colored glass that I so love to collect. So often, we think that God desires for us to be spit-shined and sparkly in order to represent Him well in this world around us. We prop ourselves up with various mechanisms to make us look “put together” in relation to our culture’s standards, whether that be by developing great delivery skills to attract an audience or have a voice in the midst of the cacophony of voices; being well-read on the latest trends in christianity and therefore, coming to the table with strategies that turn heads; or possibly, just having the ability to gravitate people to your personality. The list is endless. We have become really good at truly hiding our real selves, amidst our lacquer-covered masks.
But, may I suggest that what truly represents Christ well to the watching world is a life that humbly submits to being tossed in the violent waves of life and confidently clinging to one’s belief in their Master who controls those waves. It is allowing the tossing waves of life to chip away at those areas of ourselves that need smoothing out by a Heavenly hand.
Have you ever handled a piece of storm tossed sea glass? It is contrived from a broken piece of glass that has been endlessly tossed by the waves and eventually comes to dot the coastline. With these small pieces of glass there are actually no severe edges on which to cut oneself, but instead those edges are smooth, like a really wonderful skipping stone. The thrill that a sea glass collector enjoys is finding all different types of colors and sizes to fill their collection. The glass container becomes a work of art as the sea glass colors display a cohesive beauty.
The Church could be characterized like a jar of sea glass to the watching world. People from all around the world, tossed in the “sea of life” who have humbly chosen to shed the veneer of the flesh and to allow their Maker and Redeemer to gracefully break them and then smooth the rough edges of their spiritual lives and make them into works of art which do not need to be externally “shined” up in order to represent Christ well. But instead it is the humble transparency of a broken, contrite heart that the Lord hears.
What an upside down picture to a watching world? That in fact as we pull back the layers of falsehood, we expose to the world the reality that we are all sin-drenched people kneeling before the same cross in need of a Savior, whether we be from the tips of South Africa to the beautifully stark landscape of Iceland - from the southern islands of the Pacific to the barrenness of western Alaska. Broken, storm-tossed, yet we are peacefully clinging to one truth as our anchor - Our God is real and He has come to save. This is the Hope of the Gospel.
May we as the global Church be willing to pull off our cultural masks and humbly expose the God-given beauty of a people, who have been broken by a good and Heavenly hand and stand together as a stunning picture of a kaleidoscope of cohesive beauty to a watching world.