Thursday, May 05, 2005

Like an Old Newspaper Clipping

In our kitchen it sits. The multi-purpose device which hums and rattles is often the focus of the room. We open it's doors many times each day. Usually when I open one of its doors, I'm looking for food. Maybe a drink. Maybe a snack. Sometimes I just stare inside hoping that some package will jump up and yell, "Hey, I'm delicious! Try me!" But that doesn't happen. So I either pick something, or I frown sadly and close the door. That's when I'm usually face to face with the great neglected function of the family refrigerator -- the bulletin board.

At our house we clean out the refrigerator on a fairly regular basis, but it's rare indeed that we ever clean off the refrigerator. That means that many of the things which are held by magnets on the door and on the side of the appliance have been there for quite some time. There are "Student of the Month" certificates for each of my boys from their school. One is from 2003, the other from January 2004. There are three fairly recent pieces of artwork, torn from their coloring book. By "recent" I mean sometime in the last two months. Pictures of nephews, friends and relatives dot the door. The adults still resemble their photos, but the kids have almost doubled in size since the pictures were shot.

Among the rest of the clutter is a comic strip. I believe the strip is called Baby Blues, but the title was cut away long ago. There used to be three of these comics, but two have disappeared. Missing is the clipping of Bloom County's Opus forgetting the words of the National Anthem and making up his own ("O'er Grandpa we washed, were so gallons ice-creamy!"). Gone is the strip where a wife plants a beautiful flower garden, then turns to the husband and says, "Your turn," while motioning to the heap of tools, empty bags and trash which she obviously wants the husband to clean up for her. I believe that clipping was trashed by my wife, since I posted it because it resembled her tendency in wanting me to clean up after her planting exploits. I can't prove she ditched it though, so in the future I'll have to used the words "alledged trashing!"

The Baby Blues strip is a shot back at me and the kids. The wife has cleaned the dishes and then is shocked to discover that the laundry basket is overflowing even though she completed the laundry an hour earlier. The husband comforts her and offers to start sorting the laundry while the wife gets a cup of tea. When she returns to her kitchen, the wife then is greeted by a sinkful of dirty dishes where nothing but cleanliness was there just a moment before. It's a good summary of how things can go for her at times.

I still look at the comic from time to time. It's easy to pick out. It has turned quite yellow which is a stark contrast to the rest of the refrigerator door. I believe this clipping is around ten years old because it had been magnetically stuck to our last refrigerator and we got rid of that around eight years ago. So in ten years, this common piece of newsprint went from white to a dark yellow. Of course everybody has newspaper clippings which have turned yellow over the years. But why do they do that? Why do old newspapers turn yellow?

Information age that it is, I went to howstuffworks.com and found out. It turns out that newsprint contains a substance called lignin. It's main use is to give the paper more strength, but when lignin is exposed to oxygen and sunlight it begins to discolor. If you leave this morning's paper in the bright sun all day, by evening you'll notice the change of color. The paper itself is bleached white when it is manufactured, but after being in the air and being exposed to the sun the white fades. Even preservation methods cannot keep newspaper clippings from eventually getting yellow. The existance of lignin assures a graduation discoloring.

I have no lignin in me. But I have something which can cause me to turn from the bleached white color to a dingy yellow. It's called a sin nature. God bleaches me white when I ask for forgiveness. He does that because I truly turn away from what I've done wrong (or neglected to do right) and ask forgiveness. Yet I still have this lignin-type nature which affects me. When I go out I am exposed to the temptations of the culture around me -- materialitic, sexual, philosophical, narcissistic temptations -- which can turn me yellow in a hurry if not for the power of the Holy Spirit within me. Even with the Spirit within me, I find that I often don't bother to follow, opting instead to chase after what pleases me rather than what pleases God. The world looks yellow, but I am to remain bleached white. That's my call as a Christian.

Jesus used the example of Christians being salt. He said that if salt loses its saltiness, it is worthless. Now I've never kept salt around long enough for it to lose that flavor, but the point is made. Christians are to be different. A little spice, if you will. And while Jesus walked the earth, salt was mostly used as a preservative. A few Christians can help the whole world from smelling like rotten meat. Jesus' point is that Christians are different. We are not to be "just like everybody else." We are called to be salt. Light. Non-yellowed newspaper. But it doesn't seem to work out that way. Too many times Christians are indistinguishable from the world. We share a common yellowish color. And too many who call themselves Christians don't care.

One expert said that "while nothing lasts forever, you can make a newspaper clipping last for several decades or longer if you treat it carefully." She calls for using acid-free and lignin-free papers to wrap the clipping in and Mylar sheets and even soaking the clippings in a solution of milk of magnesia and club soda. But even with all that the clipping will eventually yellow. Once the yellowing starts, you can never get the newspaper back to its original white.

Praise God that even when I am exposed to the temptations of the world and my own sinful nature, He washes me white as snow again when I ask His forgiveness. I don't want to live my life looking like an old yellowed newspaper clipping.

1 comment:

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