The truth is that as an artist, I'd be offended if my work didn't show its age. If you didn't wear it out. Part of quality art is how well it stands the test of time. But a greater part is how much testing time puts it through.
Think of a Bible. Your Bible, perhaps. God and man agonized over every one of those words, crafting the story in just such a way, putting it out there as this incredible creation for you. For us. It is art; it is His story.
The greatest way we honor that written Word, that story God has given us....is by wearing it out. There's a certain excitement, of course, to hold a new-bound Bible in your hands or compliment a friend at church on the sharp look of the new book. But there is something entirely different to the statement made by, as Mark Schultz would say, "a Bible cracked and faded by the years." The kind of Bible toted around by those who have been at this faith awhile. The kind with a wrinkled old hand gracing its cover as it rests in the pew next to its faithful friend on a Sunday morning.
The kind of Bible with pages visibly falling out, but shoved back in and closed up in the middle. With highlighter and pen and pencil coloring and commenting on the words. With dog-eared pages and little strips of scrap paper fashioned into bookmarks sticking out the top. Held together by a rubber band so that none of this accoutrement falls out along the path.
A Bible that is known and loved well by its owner and worn thin by its use. Cracked, torn, ripped, marked on, messed up. That is how it was created to be.
He didn't create this story for you to be in awe of it. For you to admire it, protect it, and carry it with kid gloves. He created this story for you to get into it, for it to get into you, to mess it up as it messes you all up. To look like you've lived it, for Christ's sake...not to house it in a museum. To house it in your heart, this thing you hold in your hands.
That is art.
Now imagine the way that art speaks grander by your having aged it. By your having worn it out.
Suppose someone who did not know Christ walked through your church doors and found you in the lobby. They asked what this church thing was all about, and you told them it was about Jesus, about God, about Love, and about this story. Then you pulled your Bible out of your bag, took it out of its box, heard the new pages creak as you opened it to a verse - say John 3:16 (that's the one we go to, isn't it?) - and tried to explain to this story to this stranger.
The stranger could hardly believe you. He'd look at your pristine book and think at some level, it was all for show. You carry this book around, and it still looks like you just pulled it off the shelf? You can flip right to the page you want, but it doesn't look like any of the pages have a lingering fingerprint on them? The story is the same but because you've "preserved" it as art...it's missing something.
Now pull out your wounded Bible, take off the rubber band, pick up the little pieces that inevitably fall out, and flip to that same verse - highlighted in yellow with scribbles around it in several different inks, marks made over many years. And tell this stranger about this story. Now, he gets it. This story has gotten into you, and it's worthy enough that you not only carry it with you and know its contents, but you wear it out. You mark it up and mess it up and make it yours and somehow, that glorifies the words written in those pages.
That is why the Artist is offended when His work doesn't show its age, when you don't mess it up. Because the way you live with the art, the way you interact with it, enhances the way it was created to speak. It stops being stagnant - a story on a page, a painting on the wall, a song in the speaker - and comes alive. Art is living; it was meant to be lived.
I'm not saying to go and try to "wreck" art, not to try to make it looked used, not to tear a few pages in your Bible for image sake. I'm saying live it. Let it get wearied by the years just as you are. Let it get worn out by the journey. Let it live this moment and the next moment and the next moment...its story and your story. That's what it was created for.
I'm going to tack on to the end of this post and share with you this week's creation. Here is the VBS Tripod. Next week, this will hold a 10' bazooka blaster that will shoot small stuffed animals and (I'm pushing for) confetti at the children who join us for a week of worship and Bible stories. It has full directional functionality, good for aiming both higher to lower and left to right. The legs and braces are coded by paint color for easy assembly, with the legs being "Father," "Son," and "Spirit" and the connecting braces being scripture references to the relation between the three (Romans 8:16, 1 John 4:14, and 1 Corinthians 12:3). And I hope we wear this thing out. That - and a million little pieces of confetti falling on the auditorium - would be to its glory.