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Today is Father’s Day. Everyone is still asleep, except the orioles and squirrels hopping across the lawn on the other side of the street, and the cardinals carrying on their chorus somewhere in the distance. I poured a cup of coffee into a small, plain ivory mug. The mug, I’m told, was my father’s favorite. I think of him whenever I use it.
Many people know that I lost my father to cancer when I was eighteen. As I have his mug in front of me, I think of how strange the potency of touch is, its power to linger after death. He’s been gone for fifteen years now, but when I see this mug, I still come back to the little truth of his touch. His hands held the same ivory ceramic; his index finger and thumb hugged the same handle; his lips touched the same rim as he drank from it; he set the same base down next to him on a table top, just as I’m doing right now. Why does that matter to me? It’s just a mug.
It matters because nothing in the world is really just anything. There is no just. The world, as one of my favorite theologians put it, is shot through with personality. The objects we see around us are imbibed with personal value. This mug has the personal value of my father impressed on it. The mug matters to me because he matters to me. And if the mug was never sold, if it still sat on a shelf at some local diner (which my father always appreciated), then it would still have personal value. It would have personal value built into it from the God who is three persons, the God who reflects himself in all the things that have been made (Rom. 1:20). The hardness and stability of the ceramic—that’s an image of the Father who never changes. The shape and curves in the material—that’s an image of the Son who is the shape and curve of his heavenly Father (Heb. 1:3). The space that the mug offers for substance and the way the molecules of the ceramic are bound together—that’s an image of the Spirit who offers space for the Father-Son relationship, binding them together in love. Even a mug on a diner shelf has the personal marks of the Trinity.
My father’s mug is precious to me because it evokes his personality, the richness of memory and concrete routine. But everything around us is precious because it evokes the personality of Father, Son, and Spirit, the richness of their presence and the wonder of a world that always points back to God.