An ad promoting a trip to Glacier National Park

Unlike some people whose vocations require that they relocate frequently, I can count on one hand the number of times I have moved. Prior to moving to Nashville in late 2002, I had lived in the same city 19 years, the last 12 in the same house.

Unlike some people whose vocations require that they relocate frequently, I can count on one hand the number of times I have moved. Prior to moving to Nashville in late 2002, I had lived in the same city 19 years, the last 12 in the same house.

Transitions like this can provide all sorts of new perspectives. Some we acquire in hindsight, often through great struggle. Others seem to come with little effort and almost catch us by surprise.

I remember nervously watching the professional movers wrap and pack my belongings. Later as I unpacked them, I unwound what seemed to be an entire ream of paper from a single object, only to find a lone bedroom slipper. Each item, I discovered, had been wrapped and packed with equal care.

In the months following my move, the phrase “handle with care” came to hold new meaning for me. In the flurry of activity surrounding the physical move, I applied it more often to tangible and replaceable things. Since then, though, I think of it more often in terms of people, relationships, feelings, values, traditions and memories—those things that really matter and that also require special attention during times of transition.

Handle with care. It’s pretty good advice for anyone moving from one way of living to another. And regardless of our physical circumstances, we are all in transition spiritually; at least, we should be.

As I’ve followed the war in Iraq and the recent transfer of power there, I’ve wished for the Iraqi people someone like Moses, someone they respect who can help them resolve conflicts, set up a new judicial system and teach them how to live. For in some ways, the people of Iraq face challenges similar to those the Israelites faced as they made the transition from slavery to freedom, from chains to covenant, from conflict to new moral code.

Very early in Israel’s formation as a nation and a people, God delivered to them the Ten Commandments, but not before the people made significant preparations (see Ex 19:9b-15). In elaborate detail, God told Moses what to instruct the people to do so that they would be ready for a divine encounter.

By requiring a high level of preparation on their part and by demonstrating a frightening show of power on God’s part, God said to these people in the ultimate state of flux: Pay attention. Listen carefully to what I’m about to tell you. And handle these words with care.

The haste and fervor with which many people today proceed in slapping the Ten Commandments on public buildings makes me wonder what level of preparation they have made to hear and apply them. They seem to value the monument that holds these words more than the movement they advocate.

Things that matter we must handle with great care.

Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.

Share This