I wonder sometimes if God listens in more to our normal conversations than He does to our prayers.
It happened tonight.
Twenty minutes prior, as the Lovely Lady and I worked together on a late-night project at the music store, I had—albeit, unknowingly—laid down the challenge. We were discussing a transaction which had taken place earlier in the day.
I told her about a minor mix-up in the terms of a trade I was making and then mentioned to her that I had compensated the customer with some free merchandise.
She looked at me, a little surprised. We are in our traditional summer slowdown—the calm before the storm, you might say—and the finances are a little tighter than usual. We don’t normally give away a lot of products during such times.
I explained that I felt the customer had been offered something he hadn’t received, so I wanted to make up for it. My next words are the ones I probably should have kept to myself.
“I’m not going to let circumstances determine who I am. “
I admit it; I was tired, and possibly not thinking at my best. That said, I never expected anyone was listening besides the two of us.
She went home, leaving me to toil on a different project, one which has been on my to-do list for weeks, maybe even months. I had already spent a fair amount of time replacing the head on the banjo during the afternoon. New strings had followed the head, along with a good bit of set-up.
The old banjo, one my father-in-law had sold way back in the nineteen-seventies, was once again playing as it did when it was new. All that remained was for me to replace the resonator, the round, wooden back-piece, on the instrument and I would be done.
A missing nut for one of the mounting studs was searched for (at length) and finally located before I completed the job. Then, picking the banjo up from the cradle upon which it rested, I strummed the strings a time or two.
Proudly, I should have said, I strummed the strings. Man! I’m good!
That’s funny. I heard a little vibration. That wouldn’t do.
I realized the resonator was shifting its position when I handled it, but I knew what to do about that. I simply needed to tighten up the four nuts that held it in place. So, one after the other, I tightened them up.
Until I got to the last one. That one, I went overboard on, tightening too much and twisted the mounting loose. The mounting is inside the resonator.
I would have to remove it completely, and make a repair. Then, I would have to put the instrument together again.
It was the proverbial straw and I snapped. I had had all I could take.
I wonder if this was the moment God had been waiting for. Perhaps, not. Regardless, it wasn’t pretty.
What gives you the right? Leave me alone!
The words had no sooner left my tongue than I clapped my hands—both of them—over my mouth.
What am I saying?
I could hardly believe the words came from me. Worse than that, I remembered my statement to the Lovely Lady, just moments before.
It had been a promise—a covenant if you will.
Circumstances will never change who I am.
And yet, all it took was one tiny Phillips-head screw to make me go back on my word.
I accused God!
I—proud and boastful—opened my mouth and questioned His authority, implying that He not only caused my misery, but He was overstepping the boundaries of His authority.
From somewhere in my head, I hear the voice of another man saying something similar. Job, as he sits in his misery, utters the exact sentiments. God is oppressing me. Without cause. (Job 10:3)
Worse, I told Him to leave me alone.
And somehow, again, there is the voice of Job speaking the same words, only to repent later. (Job 10:20-21)
I tell you, it is not a proud and boastful man who writes these words tonight. I trust it will not be a proud and boastful man who places that instrument in the hands of the lady when she calls for it in the next day or two.
Job knew enough to repent. I do so, as well.
I, too often, speak of things as if I have grasped the truth, only to realize that I merely know the truth in my head, but have not taken hold of it in my heart.
Whatever I am becoming inside is because of His presence.
When I boast of my resolve, He shows me how long that will last.
When I believe I have become something, He uses life’s tests to show me clearly what I would be without Him.
Did God break the banjo?
No. I make mistakes all the time. All the time. He just uses my mistakes to teach the lessons I need to learn.
I failed a test tonight. Standing there by myself in front of my workbench, I failed.
Circumstances do change who I am inside. I don’t want them to, but they do anyway.
Still, I repent.
There will be other days—other tests.
I wonder sometimes if I’m the only one who has these failures along the way. I really hope not.
My words in the moment notwithstanding, I am not estranged from my God. I have not abandoned my pursuit of Him, nor He His of me.
But, I did speak the words. I did think the thoughts.
And yet, the God who listens still calls.
Mercy still beckons.
I will follow.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
(Psalm 139:23-24 ~ NLT)
We fall down, we get up.
We fall down, we get up.
We fall down, we get up.
And the saints Are just the sinners
Who fall down and get up.
(from We Fall Down ~ Kyle Matthews ~ American singer/songwriter)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.