It came back to me covered with the “nautical nonsense” of SpongeBob SquarePants and his partners. The black lettering of my name, which once stood boldly alone in the middle of the yellow plastic, was now barely visible, surrounded as it was by the images of this cartoon hero and his friends. The artist sent a message to me upon delivery, apologizing for the theme but explaining that the stickers she used were the only supplies she had. Declaring it to be perfect, I pinned it immediately upon my shirt.
And so it turned out to be.
The last of the mad dash to Christmas was in full swing at the grocery store, and the front end was packed with people standing in long lines waiting to be checked out. I was manning the express lane, designed for small orders and speedy service. Along came a customer who, unlike everyone else in the store, was not in a hurry. Part of it was her age and lack of mobility; she had one speed, and it was slow. On top of that, she had many questions about food prices and fuel points, all of which I tried to answer, to the increasing frustration and exasperation of the next woman in line. Huffing and puffing, stamping her feet and glaring at the poor lady in front of her, she was clearly trying to communicate to the woman that she was taking too long. By the time the first customer finally shuffled on I was afraid to even speak to this next one, for fear that if she opened her mouth she would blow her top and all kinds of horrible things would come out from between her lips. So I skipped my usual greetings and just started scanning her groceries as fast as I could while she stared at the counter, fuming. Finally I had to talk to her to tell her how much she owed, and she lifted her head to look at me as I spoke. “Here it comes…!!!” I thought to myself, bracing for the explosion of rage that I was sure was coming.
That’s when the miracle occurred.
As she raised her eyes, she caught sight of the name tag pinned on my shirt. “You’ve got SPONGEBOB!!!!” she fairly screamed, a huge grin suddenly breaking across her face. She laughed and smiled some more, gave me my money and told me how much she loved that show. Too stunned at the total transformation in her attitude to answer her, I handed her the receipt and she happily went on her way.
Thinking about the incident later it occurred to me that when the customer looked at my name tag, she never even noticed my name, which was lost in the multitude of stickers around it. All she saw was SpongeBob and his buddies, the source of her joy. And for those of us who call ourselves Christians, that should similarly be our goal, that people see Christ and feel His love and touch in the words and actions surrounding our lives, and, as they go, remember not our names, but His as the source of the impact on their lives and the subsequent happiness in their hearts.
Cartoon characters can’t alter the circumstances of one’s life at all. Momentary mood changers, they merely supply diversion and laughter, welcome anytime, but especially when our stress levels are at the breaking point. The effects of their influence diminish the minute they are no longer in view. Christ, however, works ever more effectively by changing us from the inside out, so that the situations we face daily no longer have a hold over us and our actions are not dictated by those of the people around us, whether they be fast or slow or even know that we’re in a hurry. We won’t have to pin our joy on our clothing for others to notice it; instead it should overflow unconsciously and continuously from a heart filled with the same.
A picture of SpongeBob changed that lady from being the maddest person on the planet to the happiest woman on earth…temporarily…, but a vision of Christ can fill a heart with eternal joy and produce life change that is clearly out of this world.
May He be that visible in you and me.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove by you what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God.”
(Romans 12:2 MKJV)