When I was a child, we had this yellowed and well-aged Tupperware container which was filled with all manner of buttons. As clothing were worn out, the buttons would be severed from the worn garment and they would be added to the button box. Buttons ranged from big, bulky ones which probably adorned coats and outerwear in days gone by, to smaller, rather plain ones which likely held shirts together. That old button box was pulled out on more occasions than I can count to mend a shirt cuff with a missing button, or add a finishing touch to some outfit. From rich brown to bright white, the colors were sure to match something somewhere down the line. We'd dump them out, finding just the right one to match the one we'd carelessly lost somewhere along the way. One thing I always remembered about that box - no button was too insignificant to add to it. If the garment was no longer able to fulfill the purpose for which it had been created because of tattered cuffs, worn out knees, or just being plain thread-bare, the buttons would be added. Maybe my grandmother was into recycling long before it was ever called that, but it served to save many an outfit which would have otherwise been almost unwearable without the added button. I wonder if we get added to God's family in the same manner - almost worn to the frazzle, kind of not fulfilling the purpose for which we were created, and a little "bare" when it comes to the former "glory" we once might have displayed?
Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6 CEB)
During the midday shows on TV, grandma used to drag that old button box out. I knew she wasn't about to mend clothes, though. It was Bingo time! The local TV station hosted this form of TV Bingo which stay at home moms took part in as they labored over the evening's meal, laundered the family's clothes, or pressed those starched white shirts. Grandma used to listen for the commercials, then she'd grab a button from the box, prepared to add it to her bingo card in hopes of winning some appliance or the like from the TV station or one of their sponsors. The cards would be riddled with big buttons, colored ones, and even smaller plain ones. It kind of spoke to me about how we can serve many a purpose in life - not just the ones we "think" we could serve. Everyone knew those buttons could serve to hold together a garment, but who actually imagined they could be a placeholder on a bingo card in the middle of a housewife's busy day?
A couple of lessons from the button box might just be important for us to learn today:
- We are never too old or insignificant to serve a purpose in this life. We might not be fulfilling the original purpose we fulfilled for years and years, but even into our old age, there is significance in our lives. Those old buttons weren't discarded - they were re-purposed. I don't know about you, but I think we might do well to "re-purpose" those whose primary role in life might have changed because of loss of a loved one, the advancing of years, or the change in one's work status. We all fulfill a purpose and that purpose can change over time - we don't stop serving just because something changes in our lives - we might just need our purpose redefined a little.
- We all matter - not one "button" in the box was insignificant. We are all gathered into one big "box" of sorts - the family of God. Each of us is different from the next. That is what gave that box much of its charm - the variety within it. The same is true of God's family - the greater the variety, the greater the "charm". There wasn't one button too insignificant to find a place in the box, nor is there one person too insignificant to find a place in God's family.
- We never know when we will be called upon to serve. The buttons weren't discarded - they were held in reserve for that time when their service would be called upon again. Long into my adult years, that box went everywhere with me. Long after grandma passed and we had moved hither and yon, that box served to provide adornment for many an outfit or decoration for a craft project I would undertake in order to spruce up my home. Those buttons served time and time again - some in similar capacity - others in quite unique ways.
- We never know the memories held up in the lives of those "buttons" in the box. As with those buttons, human beings all have "memories" of where they have been, what they have experienced, and what they have done over their years. None is without merit. We can learn great truths from the "buttons in our box" if we will allow them to teach their varied and beautiful lessons!
To this day, I see buttons here and there, discarded from someone's garment. Likely they don't even realize they have lost such a valued treasure. When they discover the loss, they might search high and low to find just the right one to replace what has been lost. Buttons are kind of like people - they might be lost for a while, but they are difficult to replace. Just sayin!