Our old house had a dent in the ceiling over the stairs. It was an old, two-story farmhouse-style home, built in the 1890’s. The now-carpeted stairs went up a bit from the kitchen / dining room, then turned to the left (at a small landing) to finish the ascent to the second floor. When my wife and I moved into this house from a small apartment, we had a queen-sized box spring, and my buddy and I really thought that we could get it upstairs. Even after denting the ceiling with the inflexible box springs, it took us a while to finally admit that this just wasn’t going to happen (we even measured the second-story windows, but they were too small). Shortly thereafter, we became owners of a nice pair of split box springs from the mattress store, which each (being just half the width of the full-sized version) went up the stairs without incident.
Still, that dent (and a fair number of other scratches and dents on our belongings) served as a persistent reminder of some of the crazy things I’ve tried to do in life. Some of my scars tell the same kind of story: I don’t always think before I act.
I don’t know what culture you grew up in, but I can tell you that my own has left its mark on me. I like music from a certain period, and a look in my closet would probably tell you that my clothing tastes solidified in my youth. (There’s still hope for me, though – my wife has an eye for what needs to be thrown out, while regularly re-stocking my closet with clothes from the current decade.)
Other things can leave their mark on us. Bad experiences taint our perspective on potentially good things. Incorrect beliefs send us down the wrong path before we figure out the truth. Missed opportunities lead to disappointment.
However, it is not only bad things that can leave a mark. Sometimes, like an artist’s brush (or a house painter with a good roller), there are elements of life that leave our existence substantially changed for the better.
Paul, in a letter to the Romans, explains that he wanted to make a positive impact on the believers who received that letter:
For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.
Romans 1:11-12 NASB
Making a spiritual investment in others (when directed by humility, grace, and truth) can change the course of their lives, and leave a lasting impression. For the Christian, the goal is not to leave people looking like ourselves (except as we are following Jesus – see 1 Corinthians 11:1). Our goal is to leave the image of Jesus on them, restoring the image in which they were first created (see Genesis 1:26-27).
Note the latter part of the passage above: sharing our faith together helps us to be encouraged. It blesses those in the community of believers, as we help each other build our faith. It can also bless those who haven’t yet met Jesus, as they see His nature lived out in our actions, and learn how they can share in the same opportunities.
Still, unlike some of the dents and scrapes in our house, sharing the life change that Jesus brings doesn’t always just happen by accident. It sometimes takes investment: not just a random or accidental encounter, but intentionally stepping up to meet a need. When God provides you with an opportunity to help another person learn more about Him, take it!
Like a scar that reminds us of a time we were having fun playing with our friends (and resulted in a few scratches out in the yard), or the lines cut into a doorpost that remind us of a child growing up, may we leave an impression that reminds others of good things – along with the Source of all good – in the future.