When Ben was about seven years old, we bought him a special drinking glass all his own. We had been to the seashore and had spent a wonderful four days on the coast of Maine. As we were heading home, we ate a nice seafood dinner at a restaurant that we all loved– Yoken’s, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It had a gift shop that diners like us could browse through after dinner. Our kids have fond memories of sitting at a table playing a giant game of checkers while their Mom and I looked for bargains and souvenirs.
Ben spied the glass first– an ornate sort of goblet, reminiscent of something a knight would use to toast a jousting victory. He pleaded for it and we acquiesced. We brought it home in the minivan, carefully wrapped in tissue paper.
Ben treasured that glass. For the rest of that year he used it proudly at every evening meal. But the inevitable happened. No one remembers exactly how, but it slid off the table and smashed on the floor. Ben was devastated.
Well, a few weeks later his kind Grandma brought him a new special glass, a second runner-up, a poor substitute, but he liked it and was glad to have a special glass again. And one can guess its fate. And the fate of the third and fourth attempts: all just broken shards in a landfill somewhere. Kids are clumsy and accidents happen.
Ben solved his problem in a way that surprised us. He found a new special glass in an antique store one day the next summer– a glass with a title deed of Boardwalk on it; he loved to play Monopoly. And he said he liked it better than all its predecessors. He used it that day at dinner and then we washed it and, at his insistence, we packed it up in tissue paper and stashed it high up in a cupboard where it would be safe. “This way,” he said, “it can’t get broken, and I will always have it.”
Last December while I was pulling the Christmas china out of the cupboard I found a
Boardwalk tumbler wrapped in tissue paper. It had been carefully stashed away, safe from harm, for 15 years. When Ben came home on Christmas Eve, I pulled it out to show him. His reaction stunned me. “It’s not like I ever used it, Dad. It’s not special. Yeah. it’s a cool glass, but it’s not part of my childhood. I barely even remember it. You can give it away. I don’t want it.”
A special drinking glass becomes special when you use it every day, as it silently takes its place in a backdrop of happy memories. If you get sentimentally attached to it, you run the risk of it getting broken. You risk the pain of loss.
In a church setting, love involves risk. It means being transparent and vulnerable and risking being hurt by betrayal or death. Love inside the body of Christ is meant to be shared, not wrapped up tightly and hidden in a cupboard. Yes, fellow church members can wound you, but the alternative is worse– a lifetime with a guarded heart, isolated, protected, kept safe from sorrow.
In my latter days I’d rather savor years of happy memories using a special glass that one day got broken than discover some meaningless object in the back of a cupboard.