..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Monday, January 01, 2007

Sincerely His: A Life without Wax

Have you ever wondered where the word "sincerely"
came from? After all, we all grew up signing
our letters, "Sincerely yours."
As a young person I always would sit up a
little straighter when I signed that to my
letters as I thought "I really need to mean this."

As I grew older I would think less about
the sincerely part, and
more about the idea that by writing this
letter, I was leaving myself open to randomly
becoming someone else's. For the emphasis in
my mind seemed to fall on the "yours"
part of the signature. What if I was just
writing a letter to complain to the
Stop and Shop about the rotten
lettuce at the store, or to my great
Aunt Helga for giving me a pair of
hopelessly fashion-less knit slippers?
Did I have to be not just "yours" but
"sincerely yours"? It seemed a bit much.

Ah, but what does sincerely mean anyway?

It is commonly believed that sincere
comes from two Latin words:
sine 'without' and cera 'wax'.
Although even that much is challenged,
there are two explanations for how
without wax' came to be an important claim,
both involving craftsmen, who during the
Republic of Rome, would generally have been
slaves or foreigners. Some think that marble
workers would cover imperfections in the
stone with wax, much as modern homemakers
or unscrupulous antique dealers might rub
wax to hide a scratch in wood. Another
idea for the origin of sincere has more
ominous consequences. Since cement was more
expensive than wax, unscrupulous brick
layers would sometimes employ it -- at least
that's the story. When it melted, bricks
could shift and structures collapse. So the
claim that something was sine cera would
be an important guarantee.

(About: Ancient Classical History)

So artisans would either use wax to fill or
cover cracks in their sculptures, etc, or
wax would be smeared into the supposedly
cement filler that was holding the bricks
in place that held up your house.

What about us? Are we "sin cera
--without wax cover ups or cheap
fillers? Or are we the real thing,
through and through? Would we pass inspection?
Can God guarantee His work in us? Is our
foundation built on Him? Or is it mixed
with the dirt and wax of our own soulish
concoctions? For we are not left as slaves
or foreigners, without proper resources,
but with Christ Himself, to be our life.

Our Lord is after a Church, a Bride, without
spot and wrinkle,indeed, sin cera,
without wax needed to cover the blemishes,
without inferior workmanship or inexpensive
materials. In order to get to such a place we
have to give Him everything. We have
to allow Him to inspect every area of our
hearts and lives. If we hold back anything we
are not altogether His but still ours.
And we all know where "still ours" gets us.

Jesus came to the rich young ruler and nicely flattened
the man's attempt to talk about his goodness. Jesus isn't
after goodness, but perfection. And perfection is not
something that humans are capable of. God is always
driving us back to total surrender to and total reliance
upon Himself. Why do we fight this when we know
where our self efforts get us? "If you would be
perfect...." Jesus asks the man, as He asks you and
me today (Matthew 19:16-22).What would He say
to me? How would He fill in the blank for me?

As we become more aware of God's call to give Him
everything, our ways of holding onto our lives can
become more and more subtle, so that onlookers,
or even we ourselves, will think that we are wholly
dedicated to the Lord. My friends, that is not a life
that gives Christ His due for hidden underneath
the wax polish are glaring imperfections. Giving
Him a little, giving Him what we decide to give, is
really giving Him an inferior product. In the Old
Testament blemished sacrifices were unacceptable.
Jesus was and is the only perfect sacrifice. Only
by His Spirit working within , full time within,
can He find the cracks and restore us to the kind
of perfection that is His standard.

As the new year dawns, ask yourself
"Am I sincerely His?" Better yet, ask Him.
If you would be perfect......

Lord Jesus, give us sincere hearts, undivided
hearts, hearts that are fully given to You! In this
moment, may we let ourselves be examined for
fatal cracks and all that falls short of perfect.
May Your very Presence melt our hearts like
wax so that all that is left is pure and pleasing
to you. Overcome us! For in Your Presence
the mountains themselves melt. Let us be built
on the solid Rock of Christ, not on the shifting,
shoddy, unreliable filler of our own
selfish wills and natural strength?

--A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his
enemies round about. His lightnings enlightened
the world: the earth saw, and trembled. The hills
melted like wax at the presence of the LORD,
at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
(Psalm 97: 3-5)


Anonymous said...

Wow, a highly fitting and thought-provoking entry for the first day of 2007! I didn't know the word "sincerely" had such an interesting history. Thank you for educating me as well as inspiring me!

All the blessings of the New Year to you and all who come here.

An admirer and fellow wayfarer. :-)

The Pen of The Wayfarer said...

Blessed New Year to you, also! Thank you! May God melt our hearts like wax so that all that is left is pure and pleasing to Him. --RM