“And all that Jazz,” 11 x 14 acrylic on panel
My daughter, Holly, mailed me her favorite book. Inside was a colorful gift tag splattered with flowers; and on the reverse side, a handwritten note telling me how much she loved me, and that she hoped I would enjoy reading the book. The tag became my bookmark as I turned page after page, thinking of her.
As much as I enjoyed reading the book, it was the tag that intrigued me. Time and again, I returned to her note and the shiny painted flowers on the back. My mind churned. What was there about this tag that called out to me? Thoughts bubbled to the surface.
Our lives are controlled by tags, or at least influenced by them. Tags are everywhere:
- Tags for luggage, tags for identification, price tags, tags for washing instructions, tags for sizes, tags on foodstuffs, gift tags, sales tags, dog tags, gurney tags, toe tags, healthcare tags, tags for gardening, tags for equipment, fertilizer tags, warning tags and status tags for every substance, action, and product in the world.
Wouldn’t it be great, if there were tags for how to live your life? Tags for newborns might read:
- “Fragile — handle with care,” or “feisty when wet, change often.” Or how about “stubborn and willful — requires coaxing,” or “prone to temper tantrums — distract if possible.”
Tags for teenagers might suggest:
- “Prickles when angry — hug anyway,” or “count to ten and listen, really listen,” or “sasses back when cornered — don’t argue, just walk away.”
Newlywed tags might stave off marital grief:
- “Requires lots of attention — likes to be pampered” or “sleeps soundly — wake up gently” or “thinks taking out the garbage is a man’s job — just do it,” or “listen closely — it might be a test.”
As I pursued this line of thinking, I realized we already have tags for living, and they cover every facet of human life. Of course, I’m referring to the Bible, but most particularly to the book of Proverbs.
There are mini-instructions for raising children, being a good spouse, a good neighbor, a hard worker, a faithful follower. Here are some familiar ones:
- “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Prov. 22:6 NIV)
- “He who spares the rod (correction) hates his son (or daughter), but she who loves her children is careful to discipline them.” (Prov. 13:24 NIV)
- “Discipline your child, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.” (Prov. 19:18 NIV)
Remember the newlywed tags I proposed? Try this proverbial advice:
- “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a hard word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1 NIV) Good advice for an argument over how to squeeze the toothpaste or hang the toilet paper.
How about this marital gem:
- “A patient man (or woman) has great understanding, but a quick-tempered person displays folly.” (Prov. 14:29 NIV)
Quarrels over sex and money are the main reasons many couples get divorced. The antidote?
- “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from a calamity.” (Prov. 21:23 NIV)
Add the turmoil of alcoholism to the mix, and you triple the trouble.
- “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” (Prov. 20:1 NIV)
Proverbs has countless tags for being a good neighbor:
- “A person who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.
- “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” (Prov. 11:13 NIV)
- “Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house; too much of you, and he will hate you.” (Prov, 25:17 NIV)
Last but by no means least, there are instructions about government leaders; those politicians who hold our lives in their hands:
- “A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. Though his speech is charming, do not believe him, for seven abominations fill his heart. His malice may be concealed by deception, but his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.” (Prov. 26:24-26 NIV)
We can only hope that the “assembly,” the press and the people will do their job and expose the hypocrisy of each and every politician.
Some people say: “God doesn’t talk to us today. He turns a blind eye to disaster and allows good men and women to suffer. If there really were a God, wouldn’t he protect us and keep us safe? Why is he so silent? Why doesn’t he tell us what to do?”
Hello? All you have to do is pick up the book — “The Book!” Read the words of God. Turn the pages. Follow the tags or mini-instructions God has already given. Apply the information. As Sherlock Holmes once quipped: “It’s elementary, my dear Watson.”