Salt of the Earth (The Story Series: #1)

A long time ago, I said that I'd begin a blog series on the topic of story. Finally making good on that promise. This won't become a regular or frequent thing, but I'll be writing posts for this series now and then, whenever inspiration hits. Here's the first...

Yesterday, I watched a bit of Dan Cruickshank's "Around the World in Eighty Treasures" series on TV.

(As a side note, I would love to have Dan come along with me to Doors Open Ottawa this weekend. He gets so enthralled by everything around him... at one point in the special, he spent a good five minutes gushing over a chair as if it were, I don't know, a rocketship or the last surviving dodo bird. I wish my own wonder and curiosity were captured that easily).

In this particular film, he made a stop in Poland to visit one of the most fascinating places I've ever seen. It's called the Wieliczka Salt Mine, and it produced salt from the 13th century all the way up till 2007, making it one of the world's oldest operating salt mines. That alone is pretty significant, but the most astonishing thing about the mine is this:

...and this...

...and this.

Those are sculptures that were carved out of the salt by the miners who worked there. The whole mine is filled with these. Many of them are religious in nature—some are reproductions of Christian iconography, others, carvings of revered saints. The skill and effort that was put into these is mindblowing.

All I could think of after I saw that (and forgive the slightly lame allegory I'm about to draw here) was that those miners had carved out a legacy in a place where we'd least expect to see one. The tools they were given became more than tools for earning money; they became tools for telling stories, tools for exploring faith, tools for worshipping their maker. And to these men, the mine was not a dark, frigid prison cell a thousand feet below the surface of the earth, but a sanctuary. They didn't need to see stained-glass windows or hear birdsong or watch sunsets to remember God's glory... and because of that, out of what looked like a tomb, a cathedral emerged.

I'm not sure I approach my life with the same kind of attitude. I depend too much on things like journals and blogs to send a message, to record my story. And since I've never been much of a journaler or a particularly disciplined blogger, I often beat myself up for not trying harder to leave a tangible legacy that future generations can look back on. But I've been coming to realize that scribbles and keystrokes and pages and posts are only a fraction of the tools that a can storyteller use.

See, I'm pretty snobby when it comes to my environment: I feel oppressed in an office cubicle or in a windowless, fluorescent-lit classroom. If I could have any job I wanted, I'd become a freelance writer and graphic designer who'd spend her days dreaming up images and weaving stories at the park or in the warm glow of a Starbucks. But I know that the reality probably won't be that pretty. Like those miners, I won't always be in a workplace (or community, or life situation, or family, or relationship) that appeals to me.

Am I going to let that snuff out my desire to tell of God? Am I going to retreat to my Moleskines and blogs to 'make a difference'? Will I be so narrow in my definition of an 'artist' that I'll miss out on the most important canvas, the greatest blank page, that lies open before me?

Or will I begin to carve out a message of glory—right where I am?

How fitting that those mining for salt many centuries ago left us with such a marvelous metaphor for what being "the salt of the earth" means. It means, in part, telling God's story right where you are with what you have. Some salt gets sprinkled on the king's dinner plate, some gets set aside for cattle to lick. Some people paint frescoes in cathedrals, others engrave them in cold, dim mines. But we wherever we are, we are to be the flavor of forgiveness, the seasoning of the Spirit. There is no place where grace cannot be proclaimed; there is no better page upon which we can write our legacy than right here.

As Charles Spurgeon said...

You are expected, therefore, to influence others for good. You are an employer; let your influence be felt by your servants. You are a child at home; let influence be felt around the social hearth. [...] Your influence must act quietly and unostentatiously, like the influence of salt, which is not noisy but yet potent. You cannot get through this world rightly by saying, "If I do no good, at least, I do no hurt;" that might the plea of a stone or a brick, but it cannot be an apology for savourless salt; for if when the salt is rubbed into the meat it does not season and preserve it, it is bad salt, and has not performed its work, but has caused loss to the owner, and left the meat to become putrid. And if you in this world, according to your capacity and means, do not affect other people for good, you have convicted yourself of being useless, worthless, a cumberer of the ground.

(Image credits: Margy's Musings; Destination Europe; Wikipedia. There are some great images here too).


Holly said...

mm. indeed. thanks for this, Oksana.

Oksana said...

Thank you, Holly. And you're welcome. :)


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I'm Oksana—Communication major, shutterbug, occasional blogger, incessant doodler, graphic design geek, and writer of sentimental prose. I am quite content to spend an afternoon with a pencil, a few blank Moleskine pages, and a playlist of indie folk. I love musical theatre, black-&-white movies, and Eastern European illustration. Conversations with strangers make my day. When it rains, I make a beeline for my mug of green tea and stack of 19th-century fiction. I'm vegetarian about 98% of the time. I'm extremely awkward and rather nerdy. I love the sea. My name means 'hosanna' and I'm having the time of my life living to praise the One who set me free.

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