More than anything else, I want to be a writer. But until I figure out how to make a living with my words, having a regular job is the order the day. Currently, I work for a packaging company producing compliance labeling. This means I spend my days printing stickers that remind people not to stick their tongues into electrical outlets. It can get boring. Day in and day out, I’m printing labels with uniform type, uniform color, and uniform shapes. We’re trained to spot and eliminate “deviations” with extreme prejudice.
I’ve been doing this job for nearly six months, and last week was the first time I paused to consider how the printing press must feel. Imagine how bored it must be? The press I operate is capable of printing almost any color you can imagine. It has a freaking laser that can cut as complex a design you can fathom into the paper. Imagine the art that could come pouring out of this machine? But all we let it do is print angry red letters and zappy yellow lines.
Well, last week, it had enough.
From time to time, various issues arise that require an amount of maintenance. One such problem occurred, and while I was in the midst of solving the matter, the press began to “weep”, that is, it slowly released some ink from the print heads. By the time I realized this had taken place, the ink had already dripped onto the paper. I had to use a rag to dry as much of the ink as I could, lest it get onto the various rollers of the machine and make a ridiculous mess. This was the result:
The moment I lifted my rag, I heard the echo of a scripture bounce through my mind:
37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Luke 19:37-40
I grew up in an Evangelical church where the final verse above was thrown around like it was some kind of threat. Somehow, by me choosing to play with my Z-bots during worship service instead of singing along, I was going to make God so blinded with rage and/or disappointment that he was going to tear apart the fabric of the universe and force a voice to spew forth from an inanimate object. Adults never seemed to realize how much cooler that scenario seemed than listening to our worship band.
Everything is worship; we know that. But what if humans aren’t the only things to have a purpose and a calling? What if a stone is formed over the course of millenia, gets unearthed, and then someone picks it up and uses it to build a bridge? Is it possible God formed that stone specifically to make that bridge work? If so, by being in that bridge and supporting the weight of the other stones, is that stone living out what it was called to do? Is that stone worshiping God? Hell, what about stones that are just pretty? Or the ones that are just plain rocks? Is it possible that the stones have always been crying out, and we just haven’t known how to listen?
A theologian named Karl Barth once pondered these things. After sitting with Luke 19:40 for a while, he said this about the singing stones:
They do it along with us or without us. They do it also against us to shame us and instruct us. They do it because they cannot help doing it.
Is it possible that the printer at work was suddenly overcome with the need to express itself? Did those swirling colors bring glory to God? I don’t know. But they inspired this blog post, so that has to count for something, right? Keep your eyes open this week. Look for the ways in which the world is praising God, and see how it invites you to do the same.