Remarks that Stick with You
I wish I would have exuded the epitome of the godly-helper-wife when my husband asked me to “stop by” the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew his registration sticker for his truck today. I wasn’t. Of course I was going to do it, but I grumbled to make sure he knew how much I really didn’t want to. (Which makes me wonder if joyfully going to the DMV for your husband would be an updated addition to the Prov. 31 woman?).
So there I was, pulling into the crowded parking lot when I realized I had forgotten to bring a book. Suddenly, my stomach hurt. This place just makes me nervous—lines that lead to more lines, waiting at the mercy of your number being called, fuss about correct forms, and bars at the teller’s window that presume you are going to reach across and strangle them. Thankfully I had the latest Real Simple magazine issue in my car. After 10 minutes of waiting in the first line, I took my seat and cracked that baby open. What a treat! Who would have thought that my creative juices would ever flow inside the walls of the DMV? Well a section titled, The Conversation That Changed Me did just that. There were five different submissions reflecting on how an ostensibly everyday exchange made lasting changes in their lives.
Of course, that made me reflect. I had so many of those—little things that someone told me, that seemed casual, but they were a big deal. I’m terrible at picking favorites, or subjective “most importants,” so I had three that surfaced to my mind. Here is one that I thought worth sharing:
Part of my college major was art. I remember one day in a drawing class, we were told to scatter around the campus and do a perspective drawing. Our Scottish professor was never one to mince words. As he was meeting with me about my perspective drawing of some of the campus buildings he curiously noticed that I had drawn them from the perspective as if I was above the buildings looking down. When he asked about my reasoning for this, I hadn’t even noticed I had done that. He said, very matter-of-factly, that while the picture was proportioned correctly, he found it arrogant that I drew it from that perspective. He just threw it out there just like that, and then continued to explore my drawing, discussing my selection of landscape, blah, blah, blah.
Well, the “blah, blah, blah” is the part of the conversation I can’t remember because I was busy having a conversation with myself at the same time. “Arrogant? I’m not arrogant; I’m confident. I’d prefer to say that it is similar to the surrealism of Salvador Dali—yeah, yeah, it’s kind of dream-like to look down on the landscape…I don’t behave arrogantly in class. What does this guy know? He liked the picture, so what’s the big deal? I don’t even care about this picture!”
Sixteen years later, and that comment has stuck with me. I don’t even remember the professor’s name, but I remember that inquisitive remark. It seemed to linger in the room like a party guest who won’t leave. This was years before I learned about the doctrine of Total Depravity, but I was very-much bothered by the thought of being arrogant.
He was right. It was arrogant. Unknowingly, I had concocted a whole new vantage point and horizon line to view my little world. And I had made myself the God-like figure, looking down on my college campus. Apparently, my professor would have made a great art therapist.
This memory got me thinking about Hebrews 4:12,13:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him whom we must give account.
That remark that’s stuck with me all these years made a lasting change in the way I look at myself. It was humbling. My professor has long forgotten me, much less the casual observation he made about my drawing. But God’s Word actually has this very purpose when it is read and preached—it is penetrating. It changes you. We can say that it is living because it is breathed out by God—God! It reveals our true condition. For some, it hardens their hearts more to hear the gospel message in this covenant treaty. For blessed others, it turns their heart of stone into a heart of flesh, and transforms them to holiness.
My professor’s words did not have this kind of illocutionary power. God’s Word accomplishes his intentions (Isa. 55:11). He intimately knows his hearers and shapes us with his speech. How amazing is that! He won’t forget me either. God's Word doesn’t just hit me down and linger, leaving me to put myself back together again. My professor’s words humbled me. But God’s Word became incarnate, and he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross (Phil. 2:8). He has fulfilled all righteousness so that I am not left in despair. Praise God!