Object lessons. You know them. The ones where a leader usually working with children cuts open the pumpkin and says, “Did you know that carving a pumpkin for Halloween is a lot like being a Christian?” And everyone thinks, “No way?”
And then as she cuts off the top. “When Jesus comes into our lives he takes out all the things that we had become accustomed to which were not helpful to us being the person He’s called us to be.” She begins to scoop out the seeds and says, “He scoops out the sins, the attitudes, the hurts, the injuries. As we forgive, more is taken away or released. Then,” and now she carves the face, two eyes and a smile, “Jesus brings joy to us we had not known, and finally,” and lighting a candle she places it inside, “We have light shining from the inside.”
There’s something about those kinds of lessons that stick. You know, you cannot shake them. You leave thinking about them. You chuckle about the idea of Jesus “taking your top off,” but then realize that God had done just that — changed you from the inside out and placed light within.
I find that Jesus still uses those kinds of lessons on me. All. The. Time. Week by week, day by day, God uses object lessons.
Back in December, I took the plunge and bought three new pairs of shoes.
I’m not a shoe person. I tend to have one pair of dress shoes, one pair of tennis / walking shoes, boots and flip flops. So, I needed to replace tennis, dress and casual walking shoes all at once.
I found some sales at this online store and ordered them. They all fit, which was a surprise, and after wearing them inside the house, I enjoyed them outside. Then in late February or early March, my toes began to hurt. They felt like the ends of the toes all had blisters. It was painful. They began to hurt all the time. The ends of the middle toes were bright red and swollen. I began to wonder what was going on.
At a doctor’s appointment, I had her check and her first question was, “Did you get new shoes recently?”
And even though it had been a few months, suddenly the connection seemed possible. That even though I had purchased the normal sizes, the shoes were a narrow width, and were pushing my toes into the ends of the shoes. With the pandemic, I have been home more, so have been going barefoot to give my toes a break.
During Holy Week I led small groups in a nightly time of Examen — it is the Ignatian practice of prayer in which you —
- Review your day with thanksgiving
- Pay attention to the emotions of your day.
- Choose one event or moment, whatever catches your attention, and pray from that.
In that short period of time, one night, the Lord focused upon my shoes that did not fit my feet.
And the object lesson came forth as a poem, entitled, “Shoes”:
I bought three pair
Yes I did
And found them too small
My feet don’t fit
So I find that I am
Frustrated and mad
My feet don’t fit
And that feels bad.
But you say to me
„These shoes are a sign
of bigger shoes for you
Shoes that are Mine
I’ll fit you for them
I’ll show you my plan.“
„Lord I submit,
And won’t complain again.“
I don’t know what this might mean, really, but I am still waiting for God to “show His plan.” And in the meantime, I ordered another pair which I hope this time will work!
On another front, I made some cookies and really wanted gingerbread, so I got out “Grandma’s” recipe from Cindy Loayza and went to make them. The recipe called for shortening, which I know sometimes makes for a good consistency, but we were out. Butter is my go-to for cookies, but I hesitated since they were a rollout. Karen suggested the lard we had on hand. Now, we had had it “on hand” for a long, long time. Does lard go bad? I used it. It smelled a bit rancid, but I thought, “It’s worth it for we can use this up.” The dough tasted a bit off, but I thought, “It will taste better once baked.” The baked cookies tasted a bit off. But, I thought, “I bet they will get better once frozen.” But I took three out of the freezer the next day and ate them, and they tasted a bit off, and my stomach felt “off” for some time. So, finally, I threw them all away.
Some reading this are like, “Brian, what? Just throw them away!”
The thing that was hilarious about myself was that I used the lard to “use it up,” but could have thrown it away, based upon what it smelled like and saved wasting all those other ingredients. Another day during the time of Examen, the cookies came to mind and I prayed from them and felt a parallel to faith. We cannot hope to apply stale, rancid faith to life and have it work. Faith needs to be fresh, or our lives will taste stale. A stale and rancid faith will flavor everything in life. Keep it fresh, current, connected to the Source.
Object lessons. God still uses them. May God keep speaking to you during this time of pandemic for you to listen and hear what He might speak to you.