jasonbwatson

November 19, 2014

The signature of God

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by signatures. When I was in elementary school I obtained a book that purported to list the home addresses of nearly every current and former Major League baseball player. The book was intended as a resource for those who requested autographs by mail. I began writing my letters, enclosing a baseball card and a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) and waited for the mailman to bring me my treasures. Some players actually did sign the cards and send them back. Others sent a postcard or something like that, some never responded at all. Later I learned that some players would have other people sign for them. I also learned that there is a device called an autopen, which is a machine that uses an actual pen to replicate someone’s signature. These are often used by members of Congress to sign constituent mail. If you learn what to look for, autopen signatures can be fairly easily differentiated from the real thing.

I am still fascinated by signatures. I suspect I am not the only person who has ever played around with multiple variations of my own signature and/or practiced replicating (that sounds so much better than forging) the signature of others. I got pretty good at some of them, too. My mother used to let me sign her name to my practice record for band when I was in high school. I got good enough at my brother’s that he let me sign a check for him one time. I have this habit–some might say odd habit–of tracing the lines of a signature with my eyes, sometimes even with my whole head, as I try to determine the exact strokes that were used to create the signature.

Anyway, enough about my quirks! An interesting fact about signatures is that they represent authority and have value. Even for someone who is not famous or “important,” a signature can accomplish incredible things. Simply scrawling one’s signature (and I have seen some that would be generously described as a scrawl!) can secure the purchase of an item, authorize the transfer of funds, give permission for medical treatment and much more. Indeed, it is amazing how many things cannot take place until the right person’s signature is placed on the right line!

Signatures have actual value when they belong to someone who is famous. Just the signature itself, on even a scrap of paper, can sell for a considerable amount of money in some instances. A signature can exponentially increase the value of an item that would otherwise be worth considerably less. As alluded to above, I enjoy collecting the signatures of baseball players. Anyone could purchase an authentic Major League baseball for $20 or so. They are not particularly difficult to come by and they are not particularly expensive. If, however, one of those baseballs has the signature of a great baseball player on it, that very same baseball could sell for several hundred dollars or more. Interesting, is it not? After all, the baseball itself could be used to play baseball. Once the signature is on it no one in his or her right mind would actually hit the ball with a bat or play catch with it, so the utility of the ball goes down dramatically. And yet the ball becomes significantly more valuable, even though no one will do anything but look at it, simply because it has someone’s signature on it.

I happen to have a large greeting card from the 1960s that, in and of itself, would be worth next to nothing now. This particular card, however, is signed by almost the entire Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. My father’s cousin was on the team, and my father’s aunt was the recipient of the card. She later gave it to my father, who has since given it to me. I do not have any idea what it is worth, but its value is significant.

Signatures have sentimental value, too. When we receive a card, a note or a letter with the signature of a friend or loved one, it has special meaning. I have only one letter that was ever written to me and signed by my grandfather. My grandmother usually wrote and signed letters and cards from them to me, but once he typed out a note and signed it “Grandpa.” The note itself is not all that significant, but because it is the only time he ever signed a note for me it is quite special.

So why all of this discussion of signatures? Here’s why: because just like a person’s signature can represent authority or add value and meaning to something, so God’s signature on a human life makes that life exponentially more valuable. Scripture teaches that each and every life is wonderfully created by God, meaning that every human bears God’s signature and is deserving of dignity and protection; every life is sacred. If evolution were true, and we all emerged over billions of years from ooze or monkeys (or monkeys that evolved from ooze), and if “survival of the fittest” were the reality for human worth, none of us would really be worth much. In and of ourselves we are kind of like that baseball I mentioned above…we have a little value perhaps but not really all that much. We might be useful in a utilitarian sort of way, able to accomplish some basic tasks. Our real value, though, comes from the fact that God created each of us uniquely and according to His purpose and design. Each of us bears His signature on our lives! I repeat, our value and worth is not in what we do or even so much in who we are, but rather in the fact that we bear the signature of God.

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