I recently saw an article that mentioned that handwriting is no longer necessary. State officials in Indiana have stopped requiring schools to teach third graders the art of cursive handwriting—the looping, joined letters that for centuries have stood as a sign of education and sophistication. Students are now encouraged to focus on keyboard skills, based on the assumption that almost all writing today is done on computers and cell phones. Has cursive become an irrelevant relic of the 20th century? Is it, as Kayla Webley noted on Time.com, as useful as being able to churn butter?1
My immediate, visceral reaction to this revelation was sadness. I take pride in the way I write and see it as a distinctive characteristic of who I am.2 I can still remember the sting from a fourth-grade report card that gave me a C- in penmanship.3 I tried to improve from that point forward, and began to see my handwriting as a discipline I should pay attention to and take pride in because it was something that puts Janie on the paper.4
On the flip side, the change from handwriting to typing makes practical sense. The world is changing, and technology impacts even what defines us as human beings. For example, if I’m in a somewhat professional setting and I’m handed two documents, one typed and another written in longhand, I’m going to take the typed document seriously and put the handwritten document in my “memos from fourth graders” file. That’s just the way our world works now.
When I examine my daily life now—and the lack of handwriting it contains—I’m uncertain how the characteristics that define me are expressed. Sometimes I wonder if in the rapid change of our current culture and technology, our personalities—who we are—get left behind somewhere.
What is it about your handwriting that is different from someone else’s, and how can that be used in the Kingdom of God?
Instead of us manipulating technology and making it our own—the way I worked on my handwriting to make it a personal expression—it seems like we often play catch up with technology. Maybe it defines who we are instead. Sometimes figuring out what makes me God’s unique creation can feel as muddled as attempting to read my fourth-grade penmanship.5
That includes how I live and serve in the Kingdom of God. The apostle Paul seemed t
o make a concerted effort in his letters to the first Christian churches to let people know that they each had an important role to play in the Kingdom of God. God has created us as unique individuals and gifted each of us as well.
Romans 12:4-5 reminds us that just as each of us has one body with many parts that don’t all have the same function, so we in Christ form one body and are unique from one another. In 1 Corinthians 12:14-20, Paul takes this distinctiveness of the body to another level, relating different parts of the human body to the body of Christ, each with its own important role to play.
It’s easy for us to say, yeah, yeah, I’m a part of the body of Christ, there are things about me that are distinct—but when was the last time you stopped to consider what that distinctive role is? As an ear, a foot, a hand? What is it about your handwriting that is different from someone else’s, and how can that be used in the Kingdom of God? How can I express myself in a way that contributes to the community of Christ and serves a world in need?
Ultimately, these are questions we should not only ask ourselves, but that we should ask God. What are the things that make me distinctly human, distinctly God’s? How do I express that I am yours, God?
As we try to navigate this rapidly changing world that sometimes seems to leave behind many of the things we use to define ourselves, we are still God’s unique creation. That won’t ever change. And what distinguishes us as unique creations is not only for our glory, but for God’s.
We can be diligent in taking whatever part we contribute to the body of Christ to a world in need. It just might not involve a pen.
Janie Stuart is Associate Director of University Ministries, a seminary-trained theology nerd, and is UPC’s resident expert on pop-culture. This year in the UPC Times Janie will be exploring parts of our culture that can help us understand God’s kingdom.
- Can’t say I know how to churn butter, but I certainly know how to wield a pen.
- Although, truth be told, I don’t use cursive either. I print in very small, neat block letters, which I see as an indication of my attention to detail. Or maybe an expression of my neuroses.
- C-! Really? It was that illegible? What do you expect from a squirmy little nine year old?
- And Janie can’t be “sloppy and difficult to understand,” as my report card screamed. I’m obviously not holding a grudge about the C- thing.
- Which wasn’t really that bad. It really should have earned at least a B.