If weekends meant a reprieve for me in any way, I would have been asking, “Is it Friday yet?”, right about four o’clock this afternoon. Bad day? That’s like asking if GEICO makes funny commercials. For disastrous days, this was ranking right up there with the best of them. Promises I’d made couldn’t be kept because of ineptitude by suppliers, and every order placed by customers had a problem to be chased down and sorted out (okay, not every one, but enough to seem that way). Even before that, at 4 minutes before opening time, one guy actually had the audacity to blow his horn outside the front door! Not sure, but it might have been the fellow returning a non-functioning product. We got that sorted out, only to have him return a few moments later, with the replacement not working! As the day wore on, a rep from the inept supplier actually had the nerve to lie to me about a shipping date when I was staring right at the shipping record on my computer. I had opened the doors at 12:00, and by 4:00, I felt it was time to close. I was done!
But…! I like that word: But! Although it’s a small word, it turns around what came before and gives it a different direction. It has been a favorite word for me since childhood. When I was a kid, I used it to argue with everyone in sight. My big brother said I sounded like a motorboat going, “But,but,but,but,but,but…” Mom’s phrase was, “You’d argue with a fence post.” I spent most of a lifetime using the word to give the declarations of others a negative twist, to prove that I was superior. I wish it were not so, but it is true, nonetheless. I remain cognizant of my bent to arguing and I strive with the urge constantly, sometimes to emerge victorious and just as often to be humbled by my failure. The fight goes on…
Tonight though, I put the word to different use. The day had been horrible, but…! I love the conversion from the negative to the positive that “but” gives to the sentence, the repentance that marks the turning from darkness to light. This very dark day had a “but” in the middle of it. A good friend walked in the front door of my business with the means for me to keep my promise! I don’t want to be maudlin, but I can think of nothing more encouraging than having friends who rise to the occasion when I cannot. And, make no mistake, I could not rise. I had no “outs”, as they say in the game of Poker, but this friend had the very card I needed up his sleeve. I think he was embarrassed by my gratitude, but I had been drowning and he threw the much needed rope to save me.
The “but” in the middle of the afternoon revived me, and still the day made one more attempt at bringing me back to my knees. A last minute call from a customer far away ensured a labor intensive job which had to be completed this evening. Fortunately for me, Thursday evening is always Macaroni and Cheese night at our house, so even the threat of this drudgery wasn’t as crushing at it might have been. Nevertheless, the discouragement of the day hung on through the meal of comfort food. After supper, we were off to a benefit concert for some young missionary friends, an appointment that my day had made much less attractive as it wore on.
But…! (Did I tell you I really like that word?) What a refreshing time! We spent the evening visiting with old friends, many of whom we hadn’t seen for a long time. It was energizing to visit while enjoying the great Bluegrass music (and some good coffee too). But this time spent among friends, reminiscing, catching up on current happenings, and just enjoying each other, simply reinforced the lesson I learned earlier today; Self-reliance is desirable. Skill is to be sought after. Even fortitude in the face of adversity is laudable. But this I say without fear of any “but” to follow: Friends are a gift! And, I stand firmly with James in the Bible when he states that every good and perfect gift comes from Above. May we all be blessed throughout our lives with many such gifts! And may all our bad days be interrupted by the “but” of one of those gifts arriving to redeem the time for us.
“Old friends, Lord, when all my work is done,
Grant my wish and give just one old friend, at least one…
(from the song “Old Friends” ~ Roger Miller)
A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.
(Proverbs 17:17 ~ New Living Translation)