That Messy Packaging

September 27, 2021
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1 Corinthians 14:40 – But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. (NIV)

Although this verse applies to worship, I even apply it to my kitchen cupboards! They must look orderly! That's why I remove certain food products from their bulky, messy packaging and store the contents in glass jars, displaying them in a tidy, orderly fashion. My discrete labels, my memory of package information, and my general knowledge about food products suffices.

However, if anyone were to inherit my kitchen pantry, they'd have no idea what information was on the original packaging. They might use my collection only for ornamental purposes. Sadly, over time, the unused products would become as useless as faded spices.

Doesn't that happen to biblical ingredients, too? The Bible is not an orderly textbook of theology. People have discussed endlessly what it actually means. So, imagine the Bible as messy packaging for big theme ingredients, like love, grace, forgiveness, and salvation. Sadly, people who desire theology to be orderly, neat, and organized love to extract gems from Scripture, removing them from the original packaging (the biblical context) to display them in orderly glass jars, like books of theology, collections of promises, cards, readings, songs, etc. These nurturing ingredients become mere ornaments of traditions and simplistic thinking. God's love becomes divorced from His wrath, and His promises are separated from His condition of obedience. The gems become as useless as faded spices. We forget how to use them to transform our lives and society as God intended.

With that in mind, I praise God that the Bible didn't get passed down like my minimized pantry. No! Thankfully, Scripture retains the original messy packaging.

This image of messy packaging got me thinking about Christian heroes since biblical days. Often their remarkable accomplishments and famous quotes get displayed as tidy ornaments. Yet, I find myself most impacted by the messy packaging of their life stories. It means wading through the tedious details of preserved letters, diary entries, anecdotes, and old English. In such messy packaging, I've discovered how their faith was forged. I've learned how they endured challenges, like sickness, slander, death threats, and expulsion. I've seen how they cried out to God, how they learned to trust, forgive, and love. They never wished to be ornamental heroes. They just did what came to hand to do, and they continue to inspire readers to grow in faith through the messy packaging of life.

Who wouldn't benefit from such testimonies! Our own lives certainly can feel like messy packaging, despite our attempts to keep it orderly. We can become overly controlling, and even try to squeeze others into our tidy, manageable compartments. Isn't this a common downfall of church institutions?

Let's embrace the fact that messy packaging in life, as well as in Scripture, serves a vital role. It points us back to our need for God.

Prayer: Lord, guide our way through the discomforts of messy packaging in a fitting and orderly way, that faith may flourish, personally and corporately. Amen.

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About the author:

Diane Eaton <d.eaton@bmts.com>
Paisley, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Amen, Diane.


    Ain’t that truth! Thank you, Diane. Blessings.


    Great point and reminder, Diane. Thanks and blessings!


    Thanks, Diane, for this interesting and thought-provoking devotional.


    Your words surely reflect the now of today.
    Thank you.


    Thanks for a memorable comparison, Diane. Helps me. Love to you on our faith journey.


    Hi Diane,
    Thanks for today’s message. I especially enjoyed paragraph 3.
    God bless!


    Amen! Well said. I have said often enough that we ‘sugar coat’ too many parts in the Bible. We take the good parts, the parts that make us feel good. And we leave out the parts that speak about repentance, humbleness, obedience! Thank you, Diane, for putting it all so well!


    Diane,
    Thanks for this good reminder about our messy lives and how God came to be with us, right in the middle of it, from the messy stable to the rugged cross. He knows our needs and is with us through it all!


    Greetings Diane,
    Thank you for another of your special and very meaningful devotionals. Truly no matter what “messy” circumstances we face in our daily lives our faith must remain strong and our Lord will guide us through. Blessings for these inspiring devotional writings you deliver.


    Dear Diane,
    Your devotional relates perfectly to how I learned first about Bible Stories. I mistakenly thought all the characters were perfect and that is why God used them. Eventually, I learned that life is messy, that I am messy, but through Christ I am saved, transformed, and used by God. What a glorious Lord we love and serve. Thank you for writing.


    Thank you again Dianne!
    That was very insightful and encouraging!
    Reminds me of trying to make things perfect in the workshop. But the projects are never absolutely “perfect”. Sometimes the little flaws make it more; genuine?
    Hope you have a blessed day.


    How I enjoy your additions to the Daily Devotions!
    I found today’s especially pertinent to friends who pick a Bible verse (out of context) and fling it in one’s face!!!
    I have run off your devotion to help me remember the packaging, like you say, the messy packaging!!!
    Thank you so much.


    Thanks Diane again for your devotion this day.
    Our church is full of people with very powerful stories of how their lives have been fashioned with God’s intervention. Stories that we can witness and sometimes hear, but then we haven’t written any of it, and they too fade like old spices of our lives.
    God bless,
    (Quebec)


    Diane,
    I am often part-way through the devotion, and I think “I bet Diane wrote this”. There is a depth to your writing that others do not attempt. You often take on hard issues in the Christian life. I agree wholeheartedly with your statement today “God’s love becomes divorced from His wrath, and His promises are separated from His condition of obedience.” I know many broken people need to hear that they are beloved children of God, but in my church the message never seems to go beyond that, nor do many praise songs.
    My wife, like you, puts a lot of our food in large glass jars and labels them.


    Good Morning, Diane,
    The allegory in today’s lesson was interesting and thought provoking. It also made me smile. A friend and I had long planned a cruise. Our husbands chose not to go. After making the reservations, paying the money, etc., my husband ended up in the hospital. He was there three weeks and no way for me to leave; however, our three children arranged to come during the two weeks I was away to stay with their Dad. Upon my return home, I hardly recognized our kitchen pantry and some doors and shelves. One daughter said, “Mom, what else were we to do? Dad did not take up our entire time.” Such organization I have never seen. I am going to forward your devotional to them, Unfortunately, I do not think they put a Biblical interpretation to their efforts. NOW, I wish my Christian life were as organized as our kitchen pantry.
    Thanks for this devotional and the many others you have submitted.
    (Texas)


    Good morning, Diane,
    As you make me think, once again, so deeply with your message in “that messy Packaging”. The other devotional I just read was “to love that messy person.” When I get similar messages close together, I know that God wants me to really take note because I need to hear this at this time.
    I do not store items in neat packages but keep the original packaging. I do like the stripped-down version of the Bible at times. I do appreciate that we have the Bible which contains all sides of God and his people, but it is easier to digest the positive parts and not to go deep into the messier parts. Your devotional makes it very clear that we learn and grow by seeing them as they really were with all their components just like I have to see myself with all my parts – the good and the bad. God sees all of me even if I try to hide part of me from the world and God loves me as I am helping me to improve and grow.
    Thank you for always being willing to look at life from all sides and pointing out your thoughts and wisdom for others to have a chance to see more clearly. The Bible is a precious instrument to help us grow in understanding and faith. May we wade through all of it. May you continue to be inspired and share with others.


    Thank you for sharing this encouraging devotional with us! Blessings.

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