Sawdust and Sugar

Do you remember back in elementary or middle school when you would learn a concept but you didn’t really know why you were learning it? As a concept it made sense, but it didn’t seem to have a place in “real life”? But then you get older and it suddenly makes sense as to why you had to learn it? Division, for example. As a kid I wondered why I really needed to know division – was I really going to need to figure out how many 7 lb. bags of potatoes were in a 34 lb. pot of mashed potatoes? But then, sure enough, there I am one day,  trying to figure out how many standard sized water bottles I drank if I had drank 60 oz of water because I was trying to start drinking more water and the app I was using to track it annoyingly didn’t count by increments of water bottles. It happened. I used the division (I’m sure I’ve used division way more than that in my practical life, but that is the only example I could think of off the top of my head). I understood why I had to learn the putrid skill of “seeing how many times something went into something else.” It now made sense.

I had one of these moments recently, not about math but about sin. As a follower of Christ, I understood that sin was missing God’s mark, disobeying, etc. But this weekend as I was snowed in at a cabin with some friends, we were having a discussion about what God had been doing in one of our friend’s life. She talked about how in deciding to let something go in her life, she was freeing herself for what God had intended for her in that something’s place. Hmm. That got my wheels turning.

Only a few hours later, I was sitting on the couch in our cozy quite chilly cabin reading Everyday Saint: Rejecting Sin, Choosing Love by Jim Hampton. I came across a passage that was talking about the very same thing. Jim says, “sin is a paltry shadow of real truth, beauty, and goodness, and that what God wants to give us is far more glorious and wonderful that the poor substitutes to which we cling.” Hmm.

Suddenly, sin not only meant missing the mark or disobeying God, it meant using our God-given free will to choose to, as Mr. Hampton said, cling to poor substitutes of something much, much better. It’s like wanting a cup of coffee and needing something to sweeten it with. You think to yourself, “Hmm.. I have sugar in the cabinet, but I also have a maple tree in the back yard. I think I’ll go saw off a limb and put the sawdust in my coffee.”

It. Makes. No. Sense.

So why do we settle for maple tree sawdust instead of sugar – an intended sweetener?  Why do we cling to worry when we’re intended to have peace? Why do we cling to any number of things when they’re a pale imitation of what we’re meant to have?

Sin is trading in Eden for a life of pain. It’s trading in gem stones for pebbles. It’s sawdust for sugar.

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