Black Velvet

Diamonds on black velvet

In middle school, I broke the accelerated reader record for most points; literally, this translates that I read the most books at higher difficulty levels than any other middle schoolers; in practice, this translates that I was a huge nerd without any semblance of a social life. I believe I got through life with others perceiving me as intelligent because I had a large vocabulary – all of which I had required by 8th grade. It was so exciting for me – whenever I would learn a new word – that all of a sudden it would seem as if that word were bombarding me from television, books and conversation. Eventually, this vocabulary would seep into every facet of my life. (Calling an 8th grade opponent a “Potemkin Quarterback” doesn’t count as quality trash talk) In the same way, everything I have read this week seems to have been soaked in the wisdom of Dick Woodward. 

N.T. Wright states that “Lent is a great time for pausing and pondering, for reading more deeply and perhaps, more slowly.” (Lent for Everyone, pg. 31) I remember Dick joking that the point of learning how to read the Bible in Greek or Hebrew was so that one would learn to read it slowly; but that he wasn’t all that bright in the first place so slow was the only way he read in English. He always spoke with a humility that somehow made you feel a little closer to Christ while in Dick’s presence. I think it’s easy to see Jesus when we encounter someone with humility like Dick. I think it’s easy to see Jesus when we observe something beautiful. Dick taught me that it’s also possible to see Christ in human frailty and weakness.

The illustration that seems embedded in my mind is Dick’s commentary on 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (NIV) Dick used to talk about how whenever you went ring shopping, the salesmen and saleswomen would show you the diamond on a mat of black velvet. Nothing makes a diamond shine like black velvet and that’s precisely how Christ uses our fallen nature. Whenever I see imperfect people partaking in a perfect relationship or community, I think of Dick and I look to the hills knowing that despite their beauty, my help does not come from them, but rather from the power of Christ which shines brightest from the black velvet of my sin.

One day, I hope Christ uses my weakness to share His power with people the way He used Dick’s. Until then, I will follow Dick’s advice: reading slowly, abiding in Christ, and approaching my faults with as much humility as I can muster. I pray to God for the strength to be weak.

Tim Latham

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