When we were in Israel this spring, we had the opportunity to tour a dozen or more small (and sometimes large) churches that all claimed to have a special place in the narrative of Israel. We saw the Church of the Nativity, the Church of the Annunciation, the Church of St. Joseph, churches in Cana, Nazareth, Bethlehem and so many churches in Jerusalem it’s not even funny. So many beautiful churches! Though a few were quite simple in their adornment, many were very elaborately decorated with scenes of Jewish history, and there were also pictures of the disciples, starry skies, sunsets…and all of these images were made from mosaic tiles. Even detailed pictures were composed of small, carefully laid tile instead of paint. I’m not so current on my knowledge of paints, but we did see mosaic tile floors and walls that dated back to the time of Jesus, so it would seem that tile is a more permanent application.
As I tried to snap enough pictures that would remind me later of how beautiful these walls, ceilings and floors were, I couldn’t stop thinking about the hands that laid those tiles. It must have taken weeks and months, and maybe even years in some cases, to complete those masterpieces. I thought about those craftsmen going to work, day after day, to make a mental picture become a real-life picture. I am so thankful they were so faithful! I’ve never done any mosaic crafting, but I have seen many a DIY segment on the subject and the television hosts always make it seem so easy! (I suppose that’s their job!)
Since I’ve been home, I’ve transitioned from thinking about the tile workers to the tiles themselves. Of course, the tiles are inanimate objects without cognition or preference or feelings, each one is critical to the overall look of the finished piece. Missing or mislaid tiles would create a feeling of chaos in an otherwise completed design. Each one is critical.
It’s easy for me to make the transition to apply the idea of a mosaic to the church and the idea that each person is critical for the work of the church to proceed as it should. Missing tiles, in the form of church members who are inactive and disengaged, were never part of the design.
God also reminded me that my life is a mosaic and that no single experience can or should define the picture my life makes. Relationships? Yes. Experiences? No, they are all a part of the mosaic and don’t mean much without being relative to something else. I tend to dissect single experiences and give them far more gravity than is warranted and virtually every time I have done so it has cheated me out of experiencing something else (because I was too busy obsessing over something old to experience something new).
The other night I decided to swap wallets and I pulled out a wallet that’s been kicking around in my closet for the last several years. I could tell by its weight that I hadn’t fully emptied it the last time I moved out of it, so I opened it up to find a snapshot of my life from when I last carried that wallet (2005-2006). I found ATM receipts (I DO NOT MISS the once per month payday!), old business cards of mine, appointment cards from my psychiatrist’s office, and even a hand written phone number (how quaint!). As I sorted through these items, along with many (many!) frequent shopper cards from various retailers, I distinctly remember the decision to keep these items. It’s weird. I looked through these items, keeping only the business cards, thankful that I was no longer stuck in that place, obsessing over those items and, if I’m completely honest, the person to whom that phone number belonged. I realize that not everything in everyone’s wallet is meaningful, but for me, it was a picture of who I was, the things I cared about and how I saw myself. What’s more personal than that? The 2006 mosaic tells a different story than the 2012 mosaic. And it should. Praise the Lamb!
In the last couple of years, God has blessed me with a great job, a chance to get plugged into my church home, deeper and richer friendships than I deserve, the chance to take a trip of a lifetime with my family, the opportunity to go back to school, and in the last few months, an amazing, kind, funny, smart, Godly boyfriend. Every experience that I have had, those that brought me joy and those that brought me to my knees, has prepared me for the life I have now. I can see experiences from childhood and college working together with relationships from work life and church life to help me to be the woman God has created me to be. I am overjoyed with the opportunities I have had and, especially so, those that are still ahead. I pray that I’m a faithful steward of this time in my life so that when my days come to an end and my mosaic is complete (prayerfully, that is many, many years from now!), there are no missing or mislaid tiles. I want the picture of my life to please the God who is writing my story and for it to reflect his intentions for me.
O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago.