Talking packaging is no longer a new thing. A number of years ago food and drink manufacturers realised the power of the first person singular when it came to the wrappings and cartons their products are sold in. From Innocent smoothies, with their zany sense of humour, to organic products which bear personal testimony to how wholesome they are, packaging has become a platform for engaging with the consumer at a personal level.
Recently I’ve noticed a great idea being pioneered by Activia yogurts. There’s a subversive sense of satisfaction in licking a yogurt pot lid, and Activia have been capitalising on this by writing little pithy messages, penned by their consumers, which have either a piece of proverbial wisdom or a personal experience to share. Somehow the manufacturers have managed to filter out the saccharine and overly sentimental so that the lids carry genuinely endearing words.
Activia have grasped a concept which is as old as human writing – the importance of incidental spaces for reminding us about what matters. The locations where the eye rests can bring thoughts and concepts which are good for us to keep in mind back to the surface
Biblically this was something that Israel, as the Old Testament people of God, were alive to. Deuteronomy 6:9 speaks of writing God’s law on the doorframes and gates of people’s homes, serving as an everyday visual reminder of what God had revealed. All of the prescription and promise of the law, its divine precepts and inherent beauty were to be inscribed on the incidental spaces, the mundane locations of everyday life. Israel were to see God’s word as something that was relevant to normal life and something to be borne continually in mind.
And we can honour and embody this in our own lives too. I have strong recollections from my childhood of elderly relatives whose homes were adorned with Scripture references. A great aunt and uncle, who had lost both of their children, had ‘Jesus himself drew near and went with them’ (Luke 24:15) mounted on a beautiful piece of wood and hung in a place of prominence. How that silent testimony must have informed the newly childless silence of their home over and over again – Jesus was walking with them through all of this and the wall was as good a place as any to record that grand truth.
Today our incidental spaces might be our living room wall, or it might be our cover photo on Facebook, or the wallpaper on our smartphone or tablet. We might record promises or points for prayer on the old medium of cardboard and place them within clear view where we wash the dishes, or on our study desk. Either way these incidental spaces can bring God’s truth into the vital areas where we live and breathe and have our being. God’s word was never intended to be merely lifted and laid in segregated times of devotion, but it is to be carried with us and placed before us continually, the live truth of our great God earthed in the everyday and the humdrum. And what power it can have to transform our drudgery, direct our hearts in the midst of temptation, turn us to prayer and bring us promises which light up the most normal or traumatic of circumstances.
God’s word was never intended to be merely lifted and laid in segregated times of devotion, but it is to be carried with us and placed before us continually, the live truth of our great God earthed in the everyday and the humdrum.