Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pencil Problems

Change is tough. Ever since we rolled over into
2012 I have without fail written "2011" every time I have had an opportunity to write the date. This morning, for
instance, I wrote “2011” four times in the span of an hour or so. I didn’t handle it too well.

I keep a master hymnal on my desk in which I mark the dates of every hymn we sing in worship. But this morning my hand naturally reacted and before I knew it I had written 1/8/11. I corrected it. Then within minutes I wrote 1/8/11 on another hymn. I erased it, breaking the thin white eraser on my .05 millimeter stainless steel mechanical pencil. I don’t have any more erasers. (Well, I do, but they are aftermarket erasers and don’t do much more than spread the lead markings around creating more of a grey smear than revealing a clean spot of paper to correct a mistake on. Breaking my eraser off reminds me of this non-factory replacement easer problem and by now a simple “1” has me clenchingmy jaw tighter than a leotard.)

So, I am forced to draw a “2” over the second “1” lining up the longer vertical portion of the “2” so as to overlay the mistaken “1” as best as possible. Annoyed.

After a bit of tweaking on the order of worship I decide to date a third hymn (whose fourth
verse I am using as the song of response to our assurance of pardon, which is a change from the routine in its own right.) And before I even realize it’s happening I have written 1/8/11. Again.
I take my hymnal and throw it through one of the antique lead glass windows in my office, go to the storage shed and get a hose, siphon gas from my associate pastor’s car, dump it on the hymnal and set it on fire with the cigarette I had been smoking since I broke my eraser.

Change is tough. It’s tough because there is no such thing as “normal”. Yet part of the human condition is a desire for things to freeze the moment they are exactly right for us. But like King Solomon, in the wisdom hardened into him from a life of observing the world, said, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
A time to be born, And a time to die;
A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill, And a time to heal;
A time to break down, And a time to build up;
A time to weep, And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain, And a time to lose;
A time to keep, And a time to throw away;
A time to tear, And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
A time to love, And a time to hate;
A time of war, And a time of peace.

In this series of juxtaposed couplets none of these things are designated as either good or evil. They’re just different. It’s pretty simple. Things change. Frustration and disappointment stem from getting really good at gathering stones together only to discover that it’s time to start scattering them. People who reject change in an effort to keep certain things exactly the way they want them are destined for discontentment.

Contentment comes not from trying to create still-points in a moving world but in discovering the God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The Christian faith is the beautiful story of this True God undergoing change- becoming visible, incarnate, and even common, so that we could experience the stillness of His never-failing love for us.

It’s funny to think that God “changed” to show us that He is the one thing that doesn’t.

So, in 2011, don’t lament the change; embrace the God that doesn’t. Wait, did I just write 2011 again?



  1. God's faithfulness, new every morning. My life is a poorly erased smear. That's what I feel a whole lot. Then Grace sings and scarlet sins become wooly white and my greyish smear? White out!! From the Savior, scarlet & sacred.

  2. This writing business? You are doing it right.

  3. I return to these incredibly liberating words often. The fact that Solomon would ask God for wisdom BEFORE any earthly treasures gives me so much joy and peace that it takes my breath away.

  4. I first thought you presented an enigma in your search for that "still small voice" amidst the constant motion of change. Further research uncovered "Comfort for Christians" by Arthur Pink. He says contentment is a learned state not something we are blessed with or given; something learned. Like you he also says contentment is not a state of being but a continuous experience. Change....contentment in motion.