So my laptop is a pretty excellent machine, and it’s become pretty vital to a lot of what I do. Starting maybe eight months ago the screen would flicker from time to time, like every other week at first, but gradually it got worse until most recently any tiny vibration would set it off — every step somebody took through the house or office, every time I started typing, etc. It was unusable. It was also out of warranty by like two months (thank you, HP), and Best Buy told me that replacing the screen would cost more than the machine overall. What to do but take it apart and have a look (mind you, I have no experience with such).
But I did what my brother always says, I “asked the internet” what to do and found some ideas on fixing it. Pretty soon, this is what I had:
Not a real sterile or professional work environment, but it would do. I followed the directions, kept track of 37 tiny screws, jiggled and wiggled a couple of plugs that went to the screen, and hoped that did something to help. In another half hour it was back together, and by gah it powered back on (success number one). And, what’s more (success number two), the screen didn’t flicker anymore.
I was on top of the world, ready to start my own laptop business, super glad not to have to spend the money to replace this thing. But then I went on to read some of the tiny print at the bottom of the internet repair instructions: “Static electricity can kill your laptop. I recommend wearing an anti-static wrist strap while working with internal parts of your laptop.” I looked into this and, apparently, professionals use special wristbands or floor-mats to stay electrically grounded because even a tiny static charge, the kind you don’t even see or feel, can zap the computer. And then it’d be worth as much as one of these:
Yes. A brick. Because static charge “bricks” laptops. As in, for all its complexity, value, usefulness, etc., the computer would be no better than a paper-weight, a several-hundred-dollar brick, a waste of space.
That’s a more current illustration to go with the idea Jesus gives us in Matthew 5:13-20. He compares the people to salt and light. He gets into the idea that when salt isn’t real salty, it isn’t treated as salt but as gravel-dirt for the road; he points out how silly it is to cover a light up so that it doesn’t shine. Jesus uses images of something that is intended for a specific purpose, and holds certain value, because of its very essence; and also something that, when it no longer holds its essence, really ceases to be itself at all. Salt. Light. Us.
Now, right away, let’s take a break to realize what Jesus is most definitely not saying. Be careful. He does not look on the crowd and say, “Y’all are a bunch of bricks, wastes of space, aren’t you? Have you been living up to your potential? No. Where’s your worth, your value? You’re tasteless. Gravel for the road. Lightless.”
We can hear that, yes. We can certainly agree that most of us don’t always feel like we fulfill God’s purpose/potential for us. We know what it is to feel far from any kind of personal meaning. Or satisfaction. Far from any feeling of being salty, vibrant, or alive. We’ve felt hints of that brick kind of life. And here is certainly a warning that things can go that way with us. But Jesus does not call us those names, or conclude our worthlessness. Listen carefully to his words, let me quote:
“You are the salt of the earth.
You are the light of the world.”
Present tense, “You ARE,” the truth from the One who knows more clearly than anyone. We have a warning that we can live bricked if we so choose, but it’s not truly who we are or what we’re intended for. And just like last week, Jesus doesn’t speak like one exactly trying to persuade us one way or another. He speaks out of what he knows as reality, and ultimate reality, and leaves us to do the reckoning.
So maybe parting questions are: why do we choose bricked life sometimes, and in what ways? Why choose tastelessness as opposed to flavor? Darkness instead of light? How does that play out in us?