Sometimes, I feel wasted. And I’m going to ask an owl to help me to explain. (No, alcohol isn’t a factor here!)
Arnold Lobel created a most endearing character out of a mild-mannered owl in his “Owl at Home” stories for children. In one of my favorite chapters, Owl decides to make a pot of tea from his own tears. Lobel describes the process:
“He began to think of things that were sad.
‘Chairs with broken legs,’ said Owl.
His eyes began to water.
‘Songs that cannot be sung,’ said Owl, ‘because the words have been forgotten.’
Owl began to cry.
A large tear rolled down and dropped into the kettle.
‘Spoons that have fallen behind the stove and are never seen again,’ said Owl. […]
Owl was crying.
Many large tears dropped into the kettle.
‘Mornings nobody saw because everybody was sleeping,’ sobbed Owl.”
The sad thoughts and tears continued until the kettle was full. Then, Owl poured himself a cup of tea.
This story usually brings a chuckle at poor Owl’s expense. However, I must admit that I identify a tiny bit with Owl’s grieving over the unsung songs, the unused spoons and the unseen mornings.
This might sound melodramatic.
I promise, I’m just being honest. And I suspect that other long-time singles might understand what I’m trying to say. It’s not that I think I’m marvelous, ravishing or too good to be true. It’s just that I sometimes grieve a little over having a life and a heart to offer, and no one to give them to. Like an unused pen that longs to write words on paper, or shoes that are never worn, singleness can make a person resonate with the title of a Christina Rossetti poem, “To What Purpose is this Waste?” This feeling disappears when I’m in the midst of flourishing ministry, or meaningful conversations and contributions. But if my ministry has changed, my connections are elsewhere, few people need me and I’m simply earning a paycheck, the feeling of waste creeps over me like a black cloud.
God, why am I here? Why aren’t You using me to some tangible purpose? Why isn’t there someone for me to love on, to grow old with, to give to?
I started thinking about the spiritual realm and the eyes of the heavenly hosts that worship the Lamb as well as the eyes of His enemies.
I thought of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 4:9, “we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men,” and I remembered missionary and author Isobel Kuhn’s reflections on this verse in Corinthians in her book In The Arena.
Throughout her years of walking with God, she had come to believe that the Christian is always on display, “in an arena” of sorts, even in his/her most private battles with self and doubt. Trials and disappointments push us to question God’s love, and we stand there in the arena, wondering if He can be trusted. But as we chose to respond in faith, He is glorified, and the heavenly hosts see this display even if no one else does. And it is in these battles for faith that He reveals Himself to us, and we come to know Him in a precious way.
There is a sense of loss in feeling like an unused spoon, or a morning that everyone slept through.
But the reminder that I am connected to more than this tangible, physical world makes me pause.
If my life matters to another realm, if my struggles and His victories within me are on a cosmic display that brings Him glory, if when life seems shrunken to me, myself and I, there’s a whole other dimension that I’m forgetting—then I can take courage. Because (to put my own spin on Rossetti’s words) if “other eyes than ours/ Were made to look on flowers,” then maybe my “waste gauge” needs some adjusting.
I think of the 30 years Jesus spent living in Nazareth, working in the carpenter shop. He wasn’t doing miracles or training disciples; he was using a saw and a hammer and was probably rather lonely in the evenings. We don’t know many grand stories of those years; we know hardly anything at all. The Son of God, unnoticed in a scruffy village for decades, and for what purpose? But there was an enormous, cosmic purpose in these long years of dwelling among us; a purpose and a glory that caused the angels to break into song years before Peter declared, “You are the Christ!”
God was bringing glory to His name in the heavenlies even when Jesus’ life and days appeared wasted. Thank God, that goes for me and you, too.