The Fountain Pen
"Here's a gift for you." We were out to dinner with some very good friends just before Christmas and my husband was doing one of his favorite things: distributing gifts to friends and loved ones. I opened the gift he handed me. He's a creative shopper and often finds unusual things. But this one left me in some initial dismay: it was an elegant fountain pen and a bottle of ink.
Because I have terrible handwriting, am left-handed so writing is awkward anyway, and because my hands tend to cramp painfully when writing, I pretty well gave up doing any writing by hand years ago and have long used the computer for all my correspondence and other written work. I also consistently lose pens. Personally, I think that when we get to heaven, we are first going to be greeted by three large piles. The first one will be all the lost socks. When I had three teen boys and did 25 loads of laundry a week, I don't think I ever had a time when the socks all matched. The second will be all the lost reading glasses. All you of a certain age know exactly what I'm talking about here. And the third will be all the lost pens. A bunch of those will be mine. Frankly, I think people can be divided into two groups by way they use or lose pens. On one side will be those who have used the same pen for 20 or 30 or 50 years. On the other side, there will be those who can't ever find one at all even though a dozen of them were just purchased. Guess which side I fall in? For that reason, plus the handwriting situation, I have long refused to spend more than a small amount of money for any writing instrument at all.
Now, suddenly I am gifted with an exquisite writing instrument--one of those German-made, handcrafted-with-precision type pens. In fact, they are so unusual that there are on-line forums dedicated just to discussing them. These are definitely NOT bought in bulk at the local office supply store.
As has long been my pattern, on New Years Eve I sat down to write thank-you notes. I looked at that pen and ink, and then looked longingly at my computer. Resolutely, I inked up the pen, took some stationary, and began to write.
Now, I don't want you to get the idea that there was some miracle here and I suddenly began to write with perfectly shaped and legible letters. My handwriting is still pretty bad. But this pen glided effortlessly across the paper. There was no resistance, but almost a pull to make the letters that form the words. Something I have avoided for years because of the pain suddenly became the intriguing pleasure of discovery. Exquisite workmanship, time spent in perfecting the pattern, a good quality ink--and the words of gratefulness came flowing out.
Those kinds of pens don't just come rolling off a mass-production assembly line. They are the product of careful individual attention. I think there is a strong analogy here with the individuals who pay careful attention to their spiritual lives and have the marks of the Master permeating even the smallest part of their being and those who have just been quickly put together and sent out the door. Both types of pens will write, and both types of people will have impact on those around them. But some will be so touched with the thumbprints of God upon them that they will operate with exquisite grace and endurance no matter what they face. Others will quickly quit being effective or not be treasured because of cheap workmanship and little attention paid to the details. The smallest trial or obstacle sends them to the trash.
Pens don't have a choice as to whether they will be manufactured quickly and cheaply or by the slower, more expensive hand-crafted method. But people do. We can decide if we will submit thoroughly to the work of God and be shaped inside and out for lives of transformational holiness. We can also decide if we are unwilling to submit to such discipline. God is both patient and loving and will honor us when we say "no." God will not go where we will not give invitation. But those who do say "yes" to the work of God await great glory. Eyes are suddenly opened to see the possibilities of a Jesus-filled life in every moment. The fruitless pursuit of happiness gives way to the enduring joy and delight of the creative energies of God in our lives and in our world. Doomed-to-fail self-improvement programs are transformed into a journey to holy living. A salvation that looks only to escaping from eternal damnation gradually becomes a salvation that begins now by being real disciples of Jesus Christ and continues when we pass onto the other side of death. For 2009, let us all chose to let the work of God permeate every detail of our lives. It's a great place to start this journey to discipleship.