So what do computers, shells and hellebores have in common? They all relate to my question last week of, “Who am I?”
My laptop frequently crashes, hangs and freezes these days. Every time it does an automatic update, it gets yet slower. It will barely multitask now, and using an external keyboard and screen – better for people like me who spend hours on the computer each day – is just beyond its ability. Reluctantly, I decided that it is time to upgrade.
I have had positive experiences with both an iphone and an ipad, each of which has lasted for years and been repaired or replaced at minimal cost. In contrast, I have had dreadful experiences of being ripped off and sold pirated software while paying full price for legal versions at a computer market in Asia. More recently, I have felt manipulated by an over-enthusiastic salesman here in Australia who kept bring the prices of goods and services down, down, down if only I would buy NOW.
And so I decided to explore the option of buying a MacBook. They’re expensive. Yes, in the long run, they’re worth it, but the initial outlay is considerable.
But who am I, to splurge sacrificially given funds on a MacBook?
This is where those super humble, delicate spring flowers, hellebores, come into the picture. I’ve been studying the verse, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” (Romans 12:3 NIV) The original readers, proud first-century Roman citizens, were warned against arrogance. But as I gazed at these gorgeous hellebores in modern-day Melbourne, crouching low so I could look up at their bowed heads, it occurred to me that perhaps we can be too ‘humble’. We can refuse to display our gifts in ways which bring God glory and benefit those around us.
Paul instructed those Roman readers to think of themselves with sober judgement, in accordance with the faith God had distributed to each of them. I wonder about myself. I dabble in writing, translation and academia, as well as spend too much time on administration and not enough time on conference calls. All of this requires a computer. A good-quality computer which will last more than a couple of years, resilient when bounced about in a backpack, and which will manage an ergonomically advantageous monitor and keyboard when at home – that is what I need.
Am I being hellebore-like, stifling God-given gifts with inadequate equipment? Oh yes, there are issues I need to work through, including how I manage my time, finances and the dreaded marketing of what I write. But God has provided before. Shells are one way he has cared well for me in the past.
Having taken the plunge and committed to buy a MacBook, the salesman said, “What is your computer’s name? Call it Seniqua. That sounds sassy.” Of course, I needn’t name my computer, but I enjoy a bit of silliness, as the salesman had sensed, and decided to call it ‘Shibboleth’.
Why ‘Shibboleth’? According to www.dictionary.com, ‘shibboleth’ is “… a peculiarity of pronunciation, behaviour, mode of dress, etc., that distinguishes a particular class or set of persons.” This concept relates directly to my research project on how language use is part of the identity of a small Tibetan people group in Asia. ‘Shibboleth’ is also just a fun-sounding word, though rather too grand for daily use, which is why the computer will be called ‘Shelby’ for short.
As an aside, in ancient Israel, the word ‘Shibboleth’ was used to identify one clan from another with disastrous results for outsiders. Read Judges 12:5-6 if you’re interested.
‘Shelby’ … shells … again. Shells have been a theme of this current chapter of life. I’ve written about this before in several blog posts – you can read them on https://developingpassionatepatience.blogspot.com/ if you’re interested.
Shells became a theme just after I moved back to Australia ‘for good’ in 2015 with the generous provision of a car, called ‘Shelly’ because of half its number plate, ‘5HL’. This was followed soon after by various moments involving shells when I sensed God’s presence, reassurance and words of hope before, during and after cancer treatment. In addition to special moments meditating by the ocean when shells have caught my attention, my specialist is named Dr Pearly, the chemo nurse was a vibrant Christian named Shelly and the sweet short-term cross-cultural missionary nurse who often looked after me on the ward was named Shelina. I recently learned that my own second name, Margaret, means ‘Pearl’. Shells are everywhere I look, it seems, and they remind me of God’s provision, plans and purpose for me.
And now I have a computer named ‘Shelby’.
Call it what you will, but I’m calling this computer a gift from above. My hope and sure expectation is that Shelby will be an important tool in the blossoming of writing, research, translation and serving my team during this next chapter of life.
So what do computers, shells and hellebores have in common? They all relate to my question, “Who am I?” I am a woman of God, called to think of myself with sober judgement in accordance with the gifts God has given me, not thinking of myself more highly than I ought but neither lowering my head, hellebore-like, paralysed by poor self-worth. A good computer is a necessary tool for this current season of life. Just as God has called me, cared for me and commissioned me, so he has for each of us who are his people.
And because I enjoy naming inanimate objects that are important parts of my everyday life, that playfulness being part of the unique person God has created me to be, I have given my MacBook a name. ‘Shelby’, short for Shibboleth. I hope and expect that Shelby shall be by my side for years to come, reminding me of who I am – one of God’s own people – and enabling me to serve him well.