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by J Warner Wallace
As an atheist, I was satisfied with the purpose I had created for my life. I found meaning in my work, my family, and my responsibilities as a father and husband. I also loved the idea that I was in charge of my purpose; that I was the one who got to decide what life was all about. It wasn’t until I became a Christian that I realized my ideas about purpose and meaning were far too small and limited. I now try to illustrate this truth for others with an important utensil from my wife’s kitchen. This tool helps me demonstrate an important point: While it is certainly possible for each of us to design a purpose for our lives, we are missing opportunities for greatness if we reject the existence of a Creator God.
When I show my wife’s utensil to groups, they are always curious about its purpose. It has two joined metal parts; one is a rectangular sheet of metal (approximately 13 inches long), stamped with a rows of small holes, two rails along the long edges and a handle at one end. The other piece of the device is a square, open-top metal receptacle that slides along the length of the railed rectangle. It is a truly curious utensil that usually captures the imagination of the audiences I address. I typically begin by asking them to tell me the purpose of the device. Over the years, I’ve heard a number of interesting explanations. Most say they think it is some kind of cheese grater. But the holes in the rectangular section are entirely flat and it would be difficult to slice cheese without some slight burr on one side of each hole. One person (on a television show) said he thought it might be a device used to cut hair! He held it up to his head and slid the receptacle back and forth to see if it could trim the hair that poked through the holes. I’ve heard a number of potential explanations for the utensil, and some of them have seemed quite reasonable (others have not).
At some point in the presentation, I ask the group, “OK, you’ve all offered a number of possibilities and some of these might even work, but how do you think we might find out what the device is really meant to do?” Most, by this time, have noticed that the tool has the manufacturer’s name stamped on the handle. Someone will usually realize that the best way to figure out the purpose of the utensil is simply to call and ask the company that made it. Of course this is the point of the illustration in the first place…
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