Tuesday, January 17 2012
I have a friend who recently moved to Africa. One day before she departed she shared with me how worried she was about her mother's corner cupboard; the packers were not doing a very good job of getting it ready for shipping. "Your mother's cupboard" I replied, "your really taking that?" "Yes" she said "I want it with me." At first I was thinking, if it is so precious why would you risk it? But after giving it some thought I think I know the answer.
Taking her mother's cupboard to Africa is her way of staying rooted in the United States. The antique cherry corner cupboard sitting in her new Moroccan apartment is her way of planting her flag on foreign soil. As if to say we may be here in Africa but the heart of this home; the corner cupboard, is still in Ohio. It is the same thing as Captain Jack Aubrey in Master and Commander thinking of his ship the HMS Surprise as his little piece of England, even though it be on the far side of the world.
It got me to thinking about how I would fill in the blank: My Mother's ________. Immediately my mother's Haviland china came to mind. My grandmother gave the "old china" from the farm to my mother when she was first married, and because my father was a career military man the china saw more than its fair share of cardboard shipping barrels. Once or twice a year on the holidays the Haviland would appear on our dining room table. We could be living in a small tract house in Southern California but the Haviland would take my mother back to another time and another life. The beauty it created acted like a portal in which something of a golden happier past could now be reflected in and on.
The military life of a combat Marine officer was not easy and my mother soon descended into the depths of alcoholism that claimed her life at an early age. When I was twenty years old my mother died in a fire. She had one too many drinks, passed out with a cigarette and that was it. I had to go in and clean out that apartment and the one treasure that survived besides my Christmas stocking was the Haviland china. And yes, I have carted it around with me through 42 years of married life and brought it out annually as I was taught to do so many years ago. It roots me in a few memories of beauty amidst great darkness and the good intentions of a woman whom I called Mommy.
We all need to be rooted in time and place, in history and creation. What roots us in God? We have all left the garden and gone to the far side of the world; what do we take with us to remind us of whom we are and more importantly to whom we belong? I think God knows that we need something tangible like a piece of earth or better yet a person of the earth; a human being. And so at just the right moment in time He entered in and The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Rooting us in him required descending into the darkness of the grave, of going deep into the earth and in a mysterious work we will never plumb the depth of, breaking forever the power of being uprooted; separated; cut off from God. The cross of Jesus Christ reclaims the whole creation for God the Father; and in our hearts He has deposited the Holy Spirit. "If any man be in Christ...new creation" (2Corinthians 5:17).
Whether you realize it or not if you are "in Christ" you now become the earthen vessel that is to be a portal to reflect the glory and beauty of God. You are a living flag planted in the Old Creation proclaiming that the New Creation has arrived. No wonder the King of all creation said "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven" ( Matthew 5:16).
The cupboard and the dishes are ordinary objects...so are we. They passed through ocean water and fiery death baptisms.....so have we. Yet in their unique and humble ways they tell and proclaim a much Larger Story...so may we.