November 10, 2006

God and Paper Clips

2006 1532 page31 caphe deadline was bleakly looming. The mind was starkly blank.
I stared again at the computer screen for several seconds, sighed, and then located my ID card. Lunchtime, yes! I knew my reprieve would be short, but I gladly took a break from noninspiration and trotted downstairs to the General Conference cafeteria. My takeout tray would have me back in front of the computer again in minutes, but maybe by then I’d get an idea.
On the way down to pick up my meal and cookie dessert, I gained new appreciation for authors who effortlessly (it seems) write short reflective pieces for our magazine. I was assigned the task to write such a piece and, trust me, effortless was not part of my scenario. For almost a week, I was forced to dash every idea that came to me: No, that idea is better for an editorial; no, that idea is better to assign as a cover story; no, that idea is suited more for a devotional; no, that idea is just plain awful. . . .
In my office again I sent a quick prayer heavenward and pulled the Styrofoam food tray open. It was perched on my desk to the left of the computer so that I could, if inspiration struck, type in my masterpiece.
I polished off the meal. The blinking cursor manically winked at me from the empty Word document. Sighing again, I munched on a chocolate chip cookie. Then disaster (or was it redemption?) struck.
2006 1532 page31A tiny piece of cookie slipped between my keyboard’s space bar and letter “V.” Years of computer systems management specialists’ warnings flashed in my head. (Dear Information Systems Services team: I apologize for eating near my computer!) Not panicking, I looked around for a tool to dislodge the crumb before it got lost behind the keys. I spied a shiny new paper clip, and with MacGyver-like dexterity I pried one side of the metal clip straight and ejected the little cookie chunk. Then I tried to bend the clip back the way it was, perfectly curved, symmetrically aligned along the other edges and arcs.
I couldn’t do it. No matter how hard I tried, the clip was forever altered. Sure, it looked close to perfect, and it would function as well as it would have before I bent it, but the sleek lines had irrevocably been disrupted. The clip no longer lay absolutely flat on my desk’s surface. The distance between the two parallel metal “arms” was no longer exact. The curved head of the little office implement slightly dipped inwards. I had changed the clip and by myself could not bring it back to its original state of being. Maybe if I had a blow torch and some pliers. . . .
As I stared at the paper clip (it was better than staring at the computer), I realized I had my idea, and a lesson. We humans are a lot like paper clips. God created us perfect in His own image (Gen. 1:27). But the choices our first parents made pulled the perfection apart. The beautiful lines and angles have become warped. The perfect posture has become stooped. We no longer lie on the desk in perfect symmetry and position with ourselves and the universe. Not one of us is without blemish (Rom. 3:23). The hands of sin have made sure of that.
But all is not lost.
You see, the paper clip still works. Sure, it is a bit damaged, but it can still hold a lot of paper. It can still function the way it was meant to. And so can we. God can use us for His purposes no matter how bent we become, if we humbly and honestly allow Him to.
And one more thing: God can restore us to perfection.
He will—and it will be an eternal change. He can melt our uneven metal, smooth our edges, realign our angles, and pull us straight—the way we were before sin twisted us. (He can even supply us with some inspiration when we are empty!) All we have to do is put ourselves in the hands of the Master.
Kimberly Luste Maran is an assistant editor of the Adventist Review and enjoys eating the delicious food in the GC cafeteria. She also (usually) enjoys writing articles for the Review when she isn’t editing.