Friday, September 23, 2011

Things Are Not Always As They Seem

"God has chosen the foolish things 
to confound the wise; 
and those that are powerless 
to shame the powerful"
1 Corinthians 1:27

I read an interesting article last week about a little-known disagreement between the U.S. and Great Britain.  It took place in the mid-1800s, shortly before the American Civil War, but only a couple of decades separated from the War of 1812, between those same nations.  The dispute was about the San Juan Islands, and whether they were owned by the U.S. or Great Britain.  It's an interesting little tidbit from history, because it never escalated to war.  The only casualty was a pig ~ which is why it's known as The Pig War.

I'm a history buff, so I found the article interesting.  There were a few maps for people (like me) who wouldn't otherwise know where the San Juan Islands are.... and there were photos of the important parties, like George Pickett, who became famous for ill-fated "Pickett's Charge" at the Battle of Gettysburg.   There were also photos of artifacts.  Items that have been discovered ~ some of them recently ~ in the area of the altercation.  These artifacts were interesting to me, mostly because they were so uninteresting.

Photo credit:  Smithsonian Magazine
A few bullets ~ significant in that they were never fired; glasses, pipes, and an old bottle.  They are not valuable, except for their age and historical value.  To their owner, they were nothing to be cherished, really.  All readily replaceable.  And yet, all these many years later, they were an exciting find for someone who knew the history of the area.

We all have things that we cherish, even though they are not monetarily valuable.  The cast-iron skillet that used to belong to Grandma...  Dad's baseball glove from when he was a boy... objects that the original owner may not have thought much about.

I think there are experiences like that, too.  Just last weekend a friend thanked me for something I don't even remember.  I had invited her for coffee on a day when she needed to talk.  No big deal, right?  Well, it was for her.   And a few years ago, my kids asked me how I became such good friends with a gal at church.  I said something about the fact that we have a similar sense of humor, and enjoy chatting; but when I mentioned it to her, she said, "I know exactly why we're friends."  And she told me what I had said to her one of the first times we met.  She had been having a bad day, and shared it with our small group.  I, in response, had said something that had meant a great deal to her.  It was just a couple of verses of Scripture, but they were appropriate to her situation, and gave her the encouragement she needed.  I guess it's true that "like apples of gold in settings of silver, is a word fitly spoken"!  (Proverbs 25:11)  But I didn't even remember that conversation.

Now, lest you think I'm in danger of breaking my arm by patting myself on the back, I'll tell you this story, too:  Just a short time after that friend had told me how vividly she remembered that conversation that was so important to her, I ran into another friend, that I hadn't seen in years.  We had been in a small group together about ten years ago, and her son had needed repeated doctor appointments, so we were all in prayer for him.  During that difficult time, she had been given a gift ~ unsigned ~ to remind her of God's loving care for His children, and she had shared with our small group how that gift had touched her.  Now, all these years later, as we reminisced about old times, I "confessed" that I had been the one to give her that gift.

She had no idea what I was talking about.

I was still giving myself points for that gift to her, and she'd long forgotten it.  But the words I had shared with the other friend ~ that I'd forgotten ~ were still treasured.

The fact is, we often don't know that what's unimportant to us, is valuable to someone else.  And frankly, it's not our place to decide.  Every good thing we do or say, comes from Him, not from us.   And we often don't even recognize what He considers good, because we are too busy valuing something worthless.  I guess the lesson is to pray that He will use us to bless others, and then just trust that He's doing it, whether we know it or not.

 ~"God will bring every deed into judgement,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil" ~
Ecclesiastes 12:14

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