I used to sell books on ebay. I had a ton of them. Everything from college books left over to novels to non-fiction to whatever... I had too much. So a friend told me about half.com, part of ebay, and I would list the books there and sell them around the country, and pocket a little money.
This book selling thing had guidelines on how to judge the condition of the book. A "like new" copy would have no writings, cover in great shape and show no wear/ useage. It would be, for all appearances, new, hence, desireable and bring more money. Then the categories and values decreased from there. This many writings in it or highlights or notes or worn cover or messed up binder or whatever. The more visible usage, the less value it commanded. So for a long time, I would read a book, being careful not to hurt the dustcover or bend the binder and never, ever write in it. It would look as good as new when I was finished with it, and I could get a good amount of money for it.
But as time has passed, I no longer find value in "like new" condition. I like to see a book thats been appreciated, read, writings in it. Some highlights for emphasis. I will now underline those points I find interesting in my books... will make little notes to the side of what my response to a certain statement was. And I keep those books. Years later to pick them up, reread, and enjoy my thoughts for the moment.
And sometimes, I see people like this. I think I used to judge people like I did a book. If they looked clean, had no visible wear and tear, no rough edges, no "highlights"!, then they must be "like new". Valuable. Desireable. You know, clean cut, nice suit, polished appearance.... kind of like a pharmaceutical sales rep or executive of some sort. My hometown banker always looked like that. But over time, I have developed a fondness for the used books. I like the way they feel, their binders giving just a bit to the pressure I put on it. Maybe a few wrinkled pages from some earmarking, noting something interesting has happened here. They take on a character all their own and seem to gain in a value something can only receive from being used.
and I wonder.
I wonder if that's how God sees us. Does he see us as valuable if we are neat and presentable and have that "like new" appearance? Many I see dressed up in their "Sunday Best" give me this impression. Its like showing off for God. Maybe he'll thing more of us if we look presentable! But I really don't think so. I think that God sees us more like a used book. Something that has been handled, a little rough around the edge, maybe an earmark here or there or some lines have been drawn under the words for emphasis. Maybe he sees our worn cover and bent binder and understands that we have been bent this way or maybe not handled with care sometimes. And all this God sees, and God enjoys, because we, like a good used book, have gained in value to Him, because we have allowed ourselves to be used.
I hope someone picks me up one day, thumbs through my worn and written in pages, and finds some comfort, and value, there.