For as long as I can remember, I’ve found the mystery of what goes on inside or beneath the surface of mechanical devices incredibly compelling. I don’t know exactly when the mystery of how things work first began to captivate my attention, but I clearly recall an early incident when the stimulating effect of that curiosity was unmistakable. My grandfather had gone to see a friend about some kind of tool and decided to take me with him. The boredom of adult talk in the kitchen was broken by the need to go out to his workshop. Glad for the change of scenery, I was happy to tag along.
We opened the door to a building that by, today’s standards, would be about the size of a small garage. I was expecting to see an array of mechanical tools and farming stuff as I made my way inside behind the adults, but no such scene awaited. I was immediately stunned by an unexpected sound. Clocks of every description adorned the walls and shelves of his shop and metered out their chorus of “tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.” I had never seen so many clocks — big ones, small ones, Cuckoo clocks, grandfather clocks, chiming clocks, and alarm clocks. It was mesmerizing to see them all, but the most captivating sight was seeing what they looked like underneath their covers.
A Captivating Mystery ~
His workbench was covered with clocks and pocket watches with their internal works exposed. As I went from one to another gazing at all those sprockets and springs, I felt like I was looking at the wonder of life itself.
One of the obvious lessons was that the diversity of sizes, shapes, and materials represented in the collection of timepieces did not affect the primary principle driving each of them. Some were metal, some were plastic, some were a combination of materials, and one antique clock even had wooden gears. There were different sizes and shapes and different features. Some had chimes, some displayed the current month and day, some had alarm bells, and the cuckoo clocks had their little birds. Some clocks were big and heavy, and others could be worn on your wrist or carried in your pocket. Some were powered by spring tension, others were powered by weights on a pulley, and still others were powered by electricity. In spite of their different appearance and variety of applications, they had one basic function they shared.
A Different Category ~
Hurricane Florence is proving to be massive in lots of ways and its impact is being measured in various categories, wind velocity, depth of storm surge, inches of rain, and the value of property damage. One measurement that is not likely to make the news, but is nonetheless real, is the spiritual impact that the storm may bring to multitudes of those in its path. Crises like this always carry the potential for spiritual considerations, especially in regard to the matter of personal faith. Major storms in our lives send us searching for what faith really is, what it looks like with the religious covering removed. What does it really mean? How does it really work, and what does it actually do — or not do?
Faith is one of those religious words employed by people not only in every “Christian” demographic, but by those whose beliefs about spiritual things have nothing to do with Christianity and that may even be in direct opposition to everything Jesus Christ taught. Like so many virtues that we love to talk and sing about, faith can easily slide into the religious cliché category. And like its companion concepts, hope and love, faith is most clearly revealed when the superficial packaging is removed and we find ourselves looking for the substance underneath.
Altered Perspectives ~
Challenges like Hurricane Florence change the context in which we view many of those cherished religious words. Suddenly we’re not seeing them in the framework of sanctified meeting rooms, stirring musical presentations, and eloquent oratory. Crises cry out for a real life application of our spiritual words, and sometimes what we’ve been taught doesn’t seem to fit.
For instance, faith gets packaged and presented in a variety of ways. Some make faith sound like some kind of spiritual magic wand that we can wave at God and get things we want. Some make it sound like a health insurance and disaster prevention program designed to protect us from significant loss or damage. Those who are more minimalist in their approach see faith as little more than an eventual fire escape from hell with few pragmatic benefits here and now. Still others treat it like a spiritual lottery or “holy bingo” where you close your eyes and say some words and hope you get the winning combination. Unexpected and possibly life-altering circumstances can provide the ultimate test of what our “faith” really means.
Faith’s Primary Function ~
From God’s perspective, faith isn’t a game of chance or a mechanism that turns Him into our servant, and it isn’t the empty recitation of a creed. Like the clocks in the watchmaker’s shop, faith is expressed and applied in almost innumerable ways, but it isn’t the means of expression that is vital, it’s the connection with the priceless grace of God that faith enables. God may do wondrous things in our defense, but He may also allow things in our lives that are painful and costly. Faith’s vital role is declared with profound simplicity by the Apostle Paul.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 (NKJV)
There’s much to consider about faith, but there’s a caveat wrapped in another timepiece analogy that we must not avoid. When my daughter was about four, someone gave her a toy watch to wear on her arm. The little plastic replica did nothing to measure time, but it looked real to her and she was as proud of that watch as if it had been a Rolex. Her little device looked like a timepiece, but there was nothing going on underneath.
We don’t have to be in the immediate path of a storm to pause long enough to pull the case off our “clock” and see if there’s anything trustworthy inside. What a tragedy it would be to discover in the storm that the “faith” we professed is only a religiously approved ornament on our lives.
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