Monday, April 8, 2013

For want of a helping Hand

     I don’t have to guess too hard as to what type of person wrote the little parable titled: For want of a Nail. It’s an old, unattributed little dirge.
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
     Nice. Has anyone stopped to think how much pressure that put on blacksmiths? No, I was speculating on the writer of this. Because if he was anything like me, he may have been a blacksmith. And the similarity this smithy and I have is this little obsession I have with getting something right.
     Now, I am not a perfectionist. At least not with everything. I can sleep in an unmade bed, park my truck crooked, and no kidding, even sigh and hit “post” on a blog I don’t feel is quite good enough. I’m not obsessive-compulsive. But I still have this thing. I don’t know if it’s a disorder or how unhealthy it is. Let me explain.
     In For want of a Nail, one stupid, missing nail, or lack of one stupid nail causes a whole kingdom to fall. There are perhaps thousands of lives lost because of this one little missing thing. Most people probably take this story as a cautionary tale. “Little things do matter” or “be sure to cross your t’s and dot your i’s, kids”. And sure, that’s a good way to interpret this story. But I have my own version. It’s not inspired by For want of a Nail. They just remind me of each other.
     I’m a church custodian. I work all week keeping things clean, setting up and breaking down for weekly events, locking up at the end of the day 6 out of 7 days a week, and other things. I work Fridays and Saturdays. My job there is essentially to make the church ready for Sunday. I make sure every room is clean and set. The restrooms need to be well stocked as well as clean. Floors have to be vacuumed or mopped. If there is an event that weekend I need to facilitate that event and then clean up after it and take every step to get the church ready still.
     Before I go any further I have to state that I really love this job. I listen to my iPod, work at my own pace and feel very appreciated and supported by everyone there. And working alone is probably my favorite thing.
     But like I said I have my own version of the nail story. What if there was still a smudge on a bathroom mirror? A stain on a toilet? A dirty spot on the floor? The idea is very disturbing to me. And I am not exaggerating when I say this. Someone might walk into church, see the dirty floor and be put off. They turn around and walk out. They never step into church again. Their soul is lost along with the souls of their family. Their eternal damnation is all because I missed a spot on the floor.
     I know it’s unrealistic and even a little prideful to think that. But that’s what goes through my mind sometimes. Last weekend I had a tremendous workload due to some scheduling conflicts. There was a part of Friday afternoon where I needed to do 2 ½ hour’s work in just an hour. Help was offered me and of course, I declined it. That’s the even more unhealthy thing I do. I would rather work alone than accept help. That’s pride more than the want to be alone. I took a big gulp and swallowed that pride and admitted I needed the help after all. The work was busted out in less than an hour with some help.
     I thought about the story of the missing nail. If a blacksmith was the one who wrote that, he was prideful and vexed about the significance of his work. He went home each night worrying about the strength of the shoes he had nailed onto the horses that day, even if they were not battle horses. But he might never have considered this: The battle could still have been won.
     I’m no battle scholar. But I am learning about human nature every day. I think that if a battle horse or messenger horse threw a shoe. There may still have been hope. Because when there is a need for extra help, people step up. The only way hope would have been lost would be if the rider or some general somewhere refused that help. But help would have been there. It’s not what everyone does. But it is what many people do.
     When the need arises, help rises up along with it. And even if there was a mess from a war horse right there on the floor of the church foyer, someone would have greeted that newcomer walking in the building and made them feel welcome despite my failure. It’s only up to me to do the best I can and then trust God for the rest. He’s got plenty of children willing to come alongside and share the load. The nails were taken care of long ago.

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