I recently heard a story about my youngest daughter I hadn’t heard before. When my children were in elementary school, they were walking home and came upon fresh concrete, a driveway that had just been poured. My mischievous, curly-haired gal plunked her foot down on it, against the advice of her older, wiser sister and brother and the three of them promptly fled the scene. The next time they passed this spot, it was apparent the owners of this block of cement didn’t appreciate my daughter’s dainty contribution. The offense had been remedied and the pad had been fenced off to avoid any other such occurrences. Why did my daughter spontaneously vandalize someone’s property? What is it about human beings that we want, even need, to make our mark?
Ultimately, we want to be loved. Beyond this, we want to be seen, acknowledged, known, and remembered. We want to think we have value and our lives have meaning, that our existence isn’t pointless, but purposeful. Some of us want to distinguish ourselves, to be adored and lauded by the masses. Others are content to belong and to be loved by family and friends.
As a grade schooler, I was a shy child. I was always hiding behind my mother’s skirt in the church foyer or hiding behind my hands, my teeth were so jumbled up. I remember one instance when my elementary school teacher was announcing the upcoming Christmas Play, informing us there were special parts, toys that would come to life. Did any of us have fancy costumes that would be suitable? I raised my hand in an outright lie. My home was not the home of fancy costumes. My mother was a busy pastor’s wife and school teacher. Our costumes were the “scrounge around” variety, pieced together from things we had in the house. I remember one Halloween wanting to be a bunny and my mother scribbling some whiskers on my face, sewing cotton balls on the seat of my footie pajamas, and plopping a makeshift set of cardboard ears on my head. I already had the bucked teeth. I also remember being made fun of, because I showed up to the Halloween party in my pajamas. But, no matter. The instant I saw an opportunity to stand out, I remembered a close friend of mine who had that mother, the one who sent her kids out Trick or Treating resplendent in her expert stitchery, perfectly costumed in whatever their imaginations could conjure up. My friend’s mother had made her a whimsical clown costume and she and I were the same size. Despite my tendency to fade into the wallpaper, I still craved the spotlight.
In the animal kingdom, both sexes make their mark by urinating. They do this to physically and pungently declare ownership of their territory, like a child’s “mine” or an early colonizer’s flag. They also peepedee here and there and there to let potential mates know they’re lookin’ to butter the biscuit, something I find both comical and disgusting. Female mice are so good at the sniff test, they can tell by sticking their pointy, delicate snout in that stinky spot, whether the male in question is virile and fertile or wimpy and sickly. Thank God, He didn’t extend this practice to humans and whizzing any place other than the toilet or in a clump of trees in the bush is generally pooh-poohed. When we want to attract each other, we spritz on Eau de toilette, not used toilet water.
How do we human beings make our mark? You and I are drops of crystal in a sea of souls. How do we differentiate ourselves from the other models in the showroom when we have the same parts save a few important variations?
We zhuzh up our packages. We women are formidable in this area, though men are starting to challenge us. We enhance our features by adding colour to our eyes, cheeks, and lips. We thicken and darken our lashes. We dye, chop, iron, coax, and curl our hair. Some of us shave it off to reveal the shiny dome underneath. We change our eye colour completely by wearing coloured contacts or we frame our eyes with candy-coloured plastics and sleek metals. We swathe our bodies in fabrics, fluorescent or muted, shimmery or matte, smooth or nubby. Even the humble foot gets decorated. We drape gold and silver from our ears, necks, and wrists. We put feathers, flowers, and pompoms on our heads. Amazingly, there are extreme folks who pay surgeons to cut into their flesh and alter there facial features. We define and call attention to ourselves every day by how we present. Some look like visions and some more like nightmares, but we all leave an impression on those we encounter.
Outside of our appearances, our personalities may shine through. We all know someone who isn’t particularly gifted in the looks or fashion department, but they’re known for their infectious enthusiasm, clever wit, enchanting storytelling, or engaging conversational skills. These people are magnetic and sought after and usually have a lot of friends. On the opposite end of the spectrum are people who are simply different from the average Joe or Jane, whether by choice or by nature. They may be socially awkward or anti-social and their lack of social skills or their repudiation of society and subsequent hermitage make them visible in a world where there are still so many desperate to fit in.
Many cultivate a skill to make their mark. They may be naturally gifted or devote years of their lives to honing their crafts. They get really, really, really good at something and soon they have friends, fans, and clients clamoring for their expertise.
Artists make their mark literally. They sketch, paint, and sculpt their vision and leave us all thrilled, disturbed, hopefully changed, and marveling at their creativity. Graffiti artist’s mark the world and often anger people. Many don’t consider graffiti to be art, but only vandalism, which may not matter to the graffiti artist, as graffiti is as much about defiance as it is about art.
This summer, My son and I were privileged to hike up Fairview Mountain, one of the mountains bordering Lake Louise. We had to leave the house at three thirty in the morning, an ugly hour, to beat the hordes of tourists to the parking lot. Once up the mountain, we took a moment to relish our accomplishment and take some nourishment. There’s no better place to enjoy a well-deserved lunch than the top of a mountain. After that, we proceeded to explore the peak and snap a few pics. As we were getting set to go down, I noticed some scrawl on one of the rocks and I had never seen this before–graffiti on a mountain. Jess wanted everyone to know that she had been victorious and felt it necessary to leave her name behind as a testament to her hiking prowess. This was upsetting to me and I said as such to my son.
It’s not acceptable to harm others in the process of making our mark. Did her chalk scribblings harm the mountain? No. And yes. Chalk isn’t indelible. Given time and exposure to inclement weather her name would fade from view, but can’t we just allow the mountain to be the mountain? We generally put our names on our possessions. Why would she treat this glorious part of God’s creation like a common lunchbox and print her name on it in flowery lettering? A mountain is not a gas station bathroom stall! If everyone who climbed up this mountain wrote their name on it, it would mar its beauty, making it look like a derelict, old building that people with spray paint have there way with. May it never be!
Okay. Rant over. Making your mark isn’t a crime, but we can make our marks for good or for ill. We can be a Hitler or a Dalai Lama. We have the ultimate example in Jesus. He literally wore the marks of His love and sacrifice on His body and we’re to offer our whole selves as “living sacrifices” according to Romans 12:1. When we draw near to God, when we obey, we’re transformed, moving toward what he intended us to be from the start. Remember how Moses, spending time with God face to face, came away from this encounter glowing, so much so that it frightened the Israelites and he had to wear a veil? 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” It’s God’s intention that, like the most beautiful sunrise, we radiate His glory to the world and, unlike Moses, we’re not to mask it. Matthew 5:16 exhorts us to, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” God wants to mark us with his luminescence and He wants us to join Him in making His mark, the mark of life-saving, life-changing love. There’s no higher calling and no more important mark we can make.
I was talking to someone about my blog this past year. I was saying it’s my ministry, a way for me to use the creative gifts God’s given me to encourage others. My friend didn’t think my blog could be classified as ministry, because it doesn’t involve me relating to anyone. Yes, sometimes I wonder if I’m hurling my words and pictures into cyberspace, only adding to the cosmic clutter. I could make art for the sake of making art and that would be ok, but I hope, at the very least, I’m making people think and helping people feel less alone. I did have a friend say to me recently that something I posted made her reconsider a course of action regarding a particular relationship and this was encouraging. One never knows what word, gesture, or offering will influence another, so I’ll keep marking up the page in faith. Mother Teresa once said, “I’m a little pencil in God’s hands”. So, go on. Get! Be His pencil. Allow Him to make His mark with you. Expect the unimaginable.
Posts come out when I feel like it. 😀 Scroll down to the bottom of the page to follow me or sign up to receive my posts via email. Take a peek at my Redbubble store. Pollyeloquent.redbubble.com. Thank you for giving me some of your precious time!