Iron Sharpened

It was only one letter that had fallen.  One of fourteen—surely it wouldn’t be missed much.

I fished the defective aluminum “M” out of the hedge beneath my music store’s sign over four months ago.  

It was cold then.  I hate the cold.

So, I took the letter inside and laid it down on a table in the back storage area.  I would reattach it on a warmer day.

Four months, it lay there.  I told myself I was waiting for a warm day.  Possibly, I was actually waiting for someone to miss it.  I waited in vain.

No one ever did.  After one hundred and twenty some-odd days, not one single customer had mentioned the missing letter.

I climbed the ladder yesterday—on a warm day—and glued the metal letter back into place.  You would have laughed to see me clinging to that shaky ladder as I re-attached the errant letter.

I’m not sure what to think about the episode.  

Were the people who do business with me, some of them for almost forty years, worried that I might be offended if they brought it to my attention?

Were they afraid I’d be embarrassed?  Did they think I would become defensive and make excuses for my defective sign?

I’m baffled.

You’re laughing at me, aren’t you?

A letter missing from his sign?  He’s worried about whether people care if his letter is missing? 


I’ve had hundreds, perhaps more than a thousand customers come through my door in the last four months.  Surely one would have thought it important enough.

Okay, I’ll level with you.  I haven’t lost any sleep over the issue. It was just a letter from a sign. 

Still, I am struggling a little with the concept.  The concern is so subtle, so niggling, that it’s almost not worth mentioning.  

Then again, it really is.

If we care about someone, why wouldn’t we mention that something is missing from their sign—or their car—or their relationship—maybe, even their spiritual life?

Have we so easily forgotten what friendship requires of us?

We live in a day when judge not is the mantra of the masses.  In some ways, it’s understandable.  We have made it our business for too long to point out every difference, every dispute, every dogma we hold dear, to total strangers.

That’s not what I’m talking about.  The argument about our responsibility to correct the sins of the world will continue long after we’re gone.

But somehow, it’s easier for us to shout about the glaring sins of the wide world than it is for us to actually act upon, and change, something we have power over within our sphere of influence

I want to know if we can still help our neighbors realize they have a problem which needs attention.  I am suggesting that we should also make certain they understand an offer of aid accompanies our observation of their lack.

When the Apostle Paul wrote in one of his letters that his readers should not only look to their own affairs, but to the affairs of others, he wasn’t only suggesting they point out areas of deficiency; he was clearly instructing them to help correct the problem.  (Philippians 2:3-4)

It’s what community does.  

We do it because that much, and more, has already been done for us. (Philippians 2:5-8)

In the early days of our nation, evidence of this way of thought abounded.  A farmer needing to get a roof on his barn, but caught in the responsibilities of planting his fields, might see a caravan of men and women on horseback coming to help put the roof on.

Expecting no pay but that of continued communion, and under no burden but that of shared need, they gave freely of themselves and their talents.  It wouldn’t be very long until one of them would likely need to be the recipient of such attention.  The original farmer was almost certain to be in the bunch who showed up the next time.

He wasn’t offended because his lack had been pointed out, but he was grateful it had been noticed and remedied.  He would happily repay the generosity.

The truth of our faith is this:  We are not in this walk alone.  We serve and are served.  (Galatians 6:2)

I wonder.  If the world around us could see that side of our faith, and not only the list of regulations we’ve drawn up, is it possible they would understand more clearly what grace is about?

How will they know love unless we demonstrate it in our relationships with each other?

In the same way iron sharpens iron, we help each other to be better followers of our Savior. (Proverbs 27:17)

musicstoresignThe sign outside my music store is how I show the world what goes on inside the building.  

When the message is incomplete, those who pass by may get the wrong idea of what is being offered.

It’s not all that different in the rest of our lives, either.  

The next time you see I have something missing, I’d appreciate a heads-up about it.  

If you can help with the solution, all the better  Your bucket truck may be a little better than my shaky ladder..

I’ll see if I can pay more attention to what you need, too.

Perhaps, we can stay sharp together.




The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.
(C.S.Lewis ~ English educator/theologian/novelist ~ 1898-1963)



 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
(Hebrews 10:24-25 ~ NIV)





© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.

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