Not once. Not twice. Three times.
The messenger had to come through my doors three separate times today. I got the message on the third attempt.
Loud and clear, I got the message.
Early this afternoon, I spoke with him on the telephone.
“Hey Paul. Do you have some drum parts?”
Well, of course I have some drum parts. I needed more information. He clarified the request.
“I broke a lug-mount on the side of my tom.” (Just so you know, a drummer never calls it a tom-tom, just a tom.)
I told the fellow I thought we might find a used one somewhere and hung up after hearing he would be by later in the afternoon. Then I went about my labors, never giving the conversation another thought.
He arrived some time later with the broken part in his hand. I looked at it and went to scour the salvaged parts box. But, I found no tom lug-mount—at least, not one which would fit his drum.
Suddenly an idea came to me, and I headed up to the front of the store. Sitting next to the wall is a stack of cheap drums. When I say cheap, I mean worthless. I really don’t want to sell them, they’re so horrible.
The lug-mounts were the perfect size! I removed one and carried it to where he was awaiting my verdict. The man was ecstatic!
Never asking about the cost, he set a little box on the counter and showed me the contents: Miscellaneous parts, scavenged from an old electric guitar.
“I was hoping this would be about the same value.”
I made the trade with him and he left.
It never occurred to me that the man had no money to pay. Even after I made the swap, it never dawned on me. I now had a few parts to sell to someone else. It was the same a cash to me, or almost so. I was satisfied.
Half an hour later, he was back.
“Another one broke, Paul.” He had a hang-dog look on his face, as if I would be upset with him.
No problem. I removed another lug-mount from the same drum and laid it on the counter in front of him. He had some other miscellaneous parts in his pocket and I took them, plunking them in the box with his first offering.
As he left, cheerfully telling me he’d be back soon, I sat back down at my desk, deep in thought. Something was bothering me, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
Ah, well. It would come to me. Or not. I went about my business once more.
Half an hour later, he walked through my door again. I wasn’t even surprised to see him. As soon as I saw his face, the something that I couldn’t put my finger on came in a flash.
He needed a drum. The whole drum. Otherwise, I was going to see him every half-hour for the rest of the day. Or however long it took to replace all the lug-mounts on the one he had. One at a time.
He had no money. That, too was clear by now.
Did I mention that the drum I had was worthless? Did I say the word horrible? I may have forgotten to tell you that it was given to me.
Given to me.
I was the one with a hang-dog look on my face now. Walking back up to the stack of drums—the ones which had cost me nothing—I picked up the entire drum and laid it gingerly on the glass counter he leaned against.
“Yours. No charge.”
He laughed. There was no humor in the laugh, but he was relieved.
“I was going to have to owe you for this one. I don’t have anything more I can trade and now I need gas in my car. I’ll just drive my wife’s until I get paid.”
Do you ever wonder if you’ll know God’s messenger when you see him?
I know the answer to that question now. It will take me a few tries, but eventually I’ll know him—or her.
I want a voice in the dark.
Samuel got that. Of course, it took him three times too, but he was just a boy. God hadn’t talked with him before.
Three times, God called him before he answered, “Talk to me Lord. I’m listening.” (I Samuel 3)
I want the voice in the dark, but instead, I get a guy who needs drum parts. Still, three times, the messenger came. I should have been a little quicker on the uptake.
But, after the third time, I was listening.
Talk to me God. I’m ready to listen finally.
I wish the lesson were something so simple as just giving away a useless, junk drum. I obeyed, right? I want that to be the end of it.
It’s not the end of it.
I look around and I realize I’m surrounded with stuff. Things. Most, I have purchased with cash. Some, I have traded for. It’s all stuff.
None of it belongs to me.
Finally, I hear the messenger. None of the stuff, this dragon’s hoard upon which I rest, is mine.
Understand this. I said the junk drum was given to me. That was true. And, in my self-centered heart, I want to differentiate between that and all the things I have worked and paid for.
There is no difference.
From Him. Through Him. All things. (Romans 11:35-36)
Oh! Did I forget something? Oh yes. To Him.
They didn’t just come from Him and through His provision.
They are His.
Every last lug mount. And drum.
And the guy behind the counter, too.
Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ~ American poet ~ 1807-1882)
Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”
“A staff,” he replied.
The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.”
(Exodus 4:2,3a ~ NIV)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.