Reflections from The Hill – Life As a Pencil – John 10.22-30
I get a bit fed up with stories about sheep and shepherds. I know that I might be buying myself a fight, but really, aren’t there any other kinds of objects that could be used to tell this story?
OK, OK. Assumed favouritism with cattle men is probably not a good option to take, nor would an implied liking for the Goat-Herder’s Co-operative or the Duck Fancier’s Association.
I desperately want to say a few words about this week’s Gospel but I’m hamstrung by the subject matter. My suggestion is that instead of animals or birds, we use something inanimate like pencils. Yep, pencils.
A pencil is a humble thing. Ask any old-fashioned green grocer, butcher, plumber or chippie, if you can find one, and you’ll know what I mean.
Stowed behind the ear or in the hair and drawn from its storage like an arrow, it calculated all kinds of measurements – as well as the costs of your lumber, meat and vegetables – on pieces of cardboard, real board, the meat’s wrapping or just on little scraps of paper.
We don’t see this very much these days because people use calculators or adding machines. Like a lot of old-fashioned things, time has come to pass for them – and it has – and we are the poorer for it.
I know people who have tried running rear-guard actions by refusing to use those inventions of Mr Biro but have ended up with plastic versions of pencils, which is almost an oxymoron. Where to get a good pencil, that’s what I want to know.
Why, do I hear you ask? Because there’s more to a pencil than meets the eye, that’s why; certainly more than one of them new-fangled propelling pencils, that’s for sure. It’s not just a bit of wood with a shaft of graphite down the middle, you know.
Let’s put ourselves in a pencil’s shoes and try to see life from that perspective. Unless we’re as thick as two of them, we’ll notice that we’ll only ever do great stuff if we let ourselves be held in The Big Fella’s hand.
Left to ourselves, we might find ourselves up somebody’s nose or being used to write rude things on dunny walls but, in The Big Fella’s hands, we have the ability and capacity to do some pretty awesome stuff.
We’ll need to watch the tendency we’ll have to get blunt, though. The more we let ourselves be used, the more we’ll find ourselves in need of a good sharpen and, let me tell you, that can be a bit painful.
Troubles and trials have a habit of wearing us as flat as a shearing shed floor. Trials might even break us in half but if The Bloke hasn’t overcome the world, The Bloke’s done nothing.
Of course, we’ll go outside the lines and run off onto another page so it’d pay to have an eraser handy. There was a time when little erasers were stuck on the end of the pencil but, like a lot of things, I ain’t sure anymore.
In any case, arguments and disappointments, even selfishness, spoil the work we do, even in The Big Fella’s hand. Learn to use that eraser quickly; the longer the mistake is left, the harder it is to remove.
My own Good Lady used to have a drawer full of pencils, each of them blunt, each of them with a different paint job on the outside, each looking like a contestant in an Indie-500 car race: stripes, solids and sparkly stuff, you know the sort.
I’m here today to remind us that a good paint job does not a good pencil make: it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
That’s been said before. When we live our life as if the graphite is the most important thing, then the real pencil shows through. It’s the inner part, in the hands of The Big Fella himself, that’ll do the Good Job.
Once upon a time, our kids used to leave marks on whatever was closest: walls, clothes, guitars, antique furniture. I’m glad to report they don’t do that anymore, mainly because I figured out that it might be helpful to slosh some blackboard paint in their direction.
It was helpful, and the point is simple: let’s learn allow ourselves to be an instrument in The Big Fella’s hands. Availability is more important than ability.
Listen to His Voice as He teaches us how to leave a legacy, a mark, on every surface we are used on. We are making a difference to what- and where-ever He points us towards.
Being a pencil in the Boss’s hands is a safe and secure place to be. Lying around on a table, hiding in a handbag or being lost in a drawer is quite the opposite and I know where I’d rather be.