Faith Without Wax
“Rudy! That’s the last picture. Let the poor girl blow out her candles. Please!”
My mother was trying to salvage my celebration. However, Dad was determined to capture on every camera he owned my happy smile lit up by my birthday cake.
After one final photo, my grin turned to stone, I checked out the puddles of wax, former birthday candles, each with a glowing flame in the center. A quick puff of air and a long pause as the liquid wax cooled. But then I could congratulate myself with the joy of plucking off the hardened circles and licking the frosting from each one.
Wax is a very useful product. It preserves or protects a surface. We wax cars, furniture, and floors and enjoy their shine. Wax also gives a smooth glide to snow skis and dental floss. I know I appreciate waxed paper when I want to keep dough from sticking as I roll out pastries and cookies. Wax also makes a useful temporary dental impression or a covering for sharp-edged orthodontic appliances that scrape the insides of tender cheeks.
Halloween was a time for wax when I was younger. You could buy black mustaches or bright red wax lips. My parents always complained about the hooligans who waxed windows. As teenagers we watched for those homes that had been vandalized and offered to clean windows for the elderly.
I used to help my mom clean the inside surfaces of our windows. The liquid glass wax was fun to put on, though wiping off the pink film left a dusty mess to clean up afterwards. But at least the windows sparkled!
Candles are a wonderfully creative use of wax. So many styles and fragrances! Unfortunately I learned the hard way not to leave out candle tapers on my fireplace mantel in a hot, closed up house while we were on vacation. Their once straight bodies bowed to greet me upon my return.
Wax museums are fun to visit. It’s amazing how lifelike the famous figures are.
But if someone has a waxen appearance, that wouldn’t be a compliment. Most likely he or she is sick or is just recovering from an illness.
The most unpleasant wax is found in our ears. Usually it’s just an unappealing cosmetic problem. My friend’s husband, however, has a serious issue when it builds up and blocks the path to his eardrum. Thankfully a quick procedure brings back his hearing.
Occasionally wax is used as a verb, though it’s probably not so common today. The proper use of waxing and waning describes the moon’s progress to fullness and then its gradual disappearance to its dark phase. During a conversation with my husband we often “wax nostalgic” as we revisit days gone by and our fond memories of those early years grow more and more vivid.
The word “sincere” actually means “without wax.” In the past when a craftsman wished to sell a clay figure that wasn’t quite perfect, he would fill the cracks with wax and smooth over the surface with a veneer of clay. Of course that piece of art wouldn’t last as long as a solid one, and the buyer would find out too late she had been duped. The custom of honest craftsmen, therefore, was to advertise their wares as “sincere”… without wax.
Today sincere is used to convey honesty, truthfulness, purity. We want to say that what we’ve expressed in a letter is our genuine feelings when we sign “Sincerely yours” at the bottom.
Paul’s First Letter to Timothy talks about a more important sincerity. When we tell people about Jesus and “teach them everything He has commanded us,” we are to do so with “love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1:5 NAS).
That is a tall order. Pure, good and sincere can be attributed to God alone. And yet we can pray that we will “wax” into the mature disciple, the sincere witness we strive for.
For truly when I look at my life and what I say and do, I know I’m full of defects. And I try to fill in those cracks with excuses and blame… on someone or something else… and then smooth over my surface to be sure I’m presenting a good exterior to the world.
But my Lord Jesus knows where my faults are. He gently chides me when I try to salvage my conscience and my actions with my own feeble attempts at justification. He reminds me that only He can make my heart pure, my conscience good, knowing His forgiveness is the true healing.
And He reminds me that my sincere faith is all he’s concerned with… not the faith that longs for better days, but the one that the Spirit continues to grow and mature into the fullness of knowing my Savior is all I need.
And that is sincerely the greatest joy I could ever ask for!
Leaving my guilt at the cross,