I write to you with a silly sorrow. OK, sorrow is not silly, but our reason for sorrow can sometimes be “silly”. I am very, very sad. But when weighing the reason for my sorrow against all of life, I know deep down that it is silly.
This summer God saw fit to bless my office with a beautiful wood conference table. Slowly, inch by inch I have been on a mission to “clean up” the school office where I work. A mishmash of desks, filing cabinets and counters have been replaced with nice matching office furniture. Some of you can relate to this “desire” to have nice looking surroundings.
But something happened. That beautiful conference table now has been marred by a piece of equipment that was placed on it. I was very sorrowful. Even writing about it now makes me sad.
I know in life we strive to better our surroundings. Where we live, what we drive, what we wear and so on. Sometimes at great sacrifice. Can I make a confession here? I like nice things. I rarely have them, but I like them. I love beautiful photographs so at work and home I surround myself with them. It is a great joy for me to be outdoors in a beautiful setting. I love the ocean, the forest, a great looking tree, a nicely decorated property, the simple beauty of a child smiling, even a nice looking conference table. These visual things are important to me.
For some the impact of visual things are not as strong. You know the type, you see a breathtaking countryside scene and want to take it in, but they look once and say “how nice.” This posting is not for them. But to those of you who really enjoy beauty, even long for objects that are beautiful then are filled with sorrow when they are taken away, scratched, get old, or when moth and rust corrupts – to you and me I offer some perspective. (Trust me I am speaking to myself as well!)
Aim to remember the two most important commandments found in Matthew 22, Mark 12 and Luke 10. Love God with all your heart and love others as yourself. Lasting joy will never come from “beautiful temporal” objects. I love flowers and plant them around my house. Funny thing though, they always die. They never last more than a season. I believe they are God’s yearly reminder of both the beauty He has given us and the temporal nature of earthly beauty. True lasting joy can never come from inanimate objects – not any item no matter how beautiful it is. But loving God with all our hearts and loving others as ourselves, this will bring long-term joy.
This love for one another drives me on. It has led me to pay for missions trips for my son to the slums of Miami rather than replace my ugly, dying car. It has led me to forgo new furniture and invest in my children’s Christian school education. In coming to PA we moved into a “fixer upper” so we could do as much as possible to get our children into Christian colleges. It sure is not for financial gain (read – get beautiful stuff!) that I work for a Christian school and Ellen works for a philanthropy organization.
Of course we need to teach our children how to take care of things! They should respect what we have been able to provide. But alongside teaching them to respect objects, always remind them that people are more important than “stuff”! Remind them that all items from the car in the driveway to the house overhead will give way to the decay of this world. (Matthew 6:19-20) Only by investing in our walk with God, our family, friendships, and acquaintances do we lay up “treasures” in heaven that will never be destroyed.
Trust me, I am not telling you to buy old junky items. I will still work on “cleaning up” our office. But when the scratches come – they are a reminder to us that it is not about beautiful conference tables – it is about people. The first two chapters of Ecclesiastes make it clear that “all is vanity”. I know one day in heaven, I will be able to take in all the beauty there is to behold! I just hope I keep my perspective down here on earth and remind myself to care much more about people than a conference table.
May God’s grace and peace be with you,
Mark Strohm, Jr.