The parable of “THE THREE PENCILS”

Today I would consider it a great privilege if you would allow me to introduce you to a young man by the given name of Samuel. Someone special you might ask? On no, far from it I’m afraid, he was a simple country boy, born and raised in the Tennessee mountains. I’m sure his life would unfold with barely a tremor in this old world. But what was special about him was an unlikely friendship between himself and an old crusty mountain man who by chance was a carpenter and his skill was well-known throughout the small towns,(as was his temperament).

They were an unlikely pair, and should you know either one privately, you simply had a difficult time imagining their friendship. But as strange as they were, they were inseparable nonetheless. Samual’s soft nature offset the harsh brashness of his counterpart.

Samuel helped the old man as he labored on the hills and in the hollers, felling trees carefully selected by criteria known only to himself. It was as if he could read the tree’s soul when he lay his leathery hands on the trunk.

“Yep, he’s ready,” would grunt the old man. Then with a large chunk of charcoal, he would make a slash mark on the trunk in the precise location he wanted Samuel to begin sawing. Cut exactly when the lines are, he would command. If he ain’t felled proper he could kill us both on the way down. Samuel learned to follow the old man’s orders, he hadn’t once, and this sent the tree down in the wrong direction, nearly sending them both to meet their maker. But if he followed the marks exactly, well… that old tree crashed to the ground right where the old man intended.

This leads us to the first of our three pencils: You see…those course marks represent a “general” guide. On their own, they certainly won’t get you into Heaven, and they’re not meant to. I spose you could say, “they point you in the right direction.” Go here, not there, stop every now and then to appreciate the sunset, knowing full well that someone higher than you set the whole thing in motion. Realizing that you may be the center of (your) universe, but not the center of (the) universe. The simple act of not taking the last of anything for yourself, but leaving something for the person behind you. Perhaps, think of those closest to us before we make major decisions, ever mindful that we may leave others to deal with the consequences of our actions. Let’s not forget to fix that broken toy, because if they can’t bring you a broken toy, they certainly won’t bring you a broken heart.

It may be a simple rough mark…but it certainly sends us in the right direction.

Once the tree was down it was time to cut the limbs and hook the trunk to the waiting mules. Incredible animals who were as stubborn as they were strong. Samual had no control over them as he took the reins. Each would look back in disgust when he yelled, slapped, or tried whatever means to get the beasts to move. But once the old man took the straps in his hands the mules could feel it, they responded instantly to his words and whistles and pulled their hearts out at the slightest “Jee”, or Ha.” Once safely loaded on the wagon they were off to the shop.

At this point, we come to the second pencil.

There’s a chair hidden in this log, the old man barked. Samual tried, he stared and stared but he just couldn’t see it. How do you know it’s a chair he asked. Well, replied the old man. I can see it, you just gotta know how to look. Consider the grain, see how it curves, and notice how soft and graceful the lines are. Yep…that’s a chair if I ever saw one. If those lines were hard and straight it wouldn’t be a chair, it would be a chest or box, something strong, straight, and proud. No…not this one…it’s a chair. He looked up at Samual, there is something hidden inside everything. The good Lord put ’em there for us to find. People are no different as far as I can tell. The problem is, most folks either don’t care or simply don’t take the time to see it. They’re too busy anymore to slow down a bit and cut through all the extra wood that we all carry around with us. That’s a lot of weight you know, no wonder so many are giving up no-a-days. But I’m gonna show you how.

The old man pulled a broad flat pencil from his pocket and measured the wood to length, here boy, cut here, right at this line, take your time and make it right, after all, you only get one chance. The old man repeated this several times and Samual was careful to cut the measurements exactly. Before he knew it a small stack of beautiful lumber lay before him, but he still didn’t see a chair.

At this time I’m gonna ask you. What is hidden in you? Nothing you may say? well… let me help you out a bit. Our god has hidden in each and every one of us a treasure. Your grain, your personality was hidden in you from birth. Some are chests or desks, strong and resolute. Others, a chair, soft graceful, and comfortable. Some may have their strength called upon to shelter others from the attacks so common in this world. While others are soft and comforting, they provide a needed respite to those who are weary and battle worn.

One is no more important than the other and each depends on the other for strength. It’s the extra wood that is the problem, all that weight keeps us from discovering who we truly are, or our purpose. Perhaps we need the old man, someone who sees us for who our Holy God intended us to be. A friend to help cut the excess away.

The old man carried the fresh new lumber to his bench, he laid each piece in order before reaching into his pocket to produce another pencil.

We finally come to the Third Pencil.

This pencil was different, the lead was long and sharp, unlike the other which was broad and dull. Looking over his eyeglasses, he carefully measured and pondered. Stopping from time to time to scratch his head and think. With great precision, he marked a thin straight line.

He stopped and looked up at Samual.

You see that there?

He pointed at the fresh mark. That my dear boy is where the truth lives.

His hand rubbed the mark gently, he was silent for a few seconds until at last a sigh escaped his lips. We all have three choices in this world. We can live on the right of the truth, or we can live on the left of the truth. It really don’t matter which, so long as we pick one and stick with it. But the truth ain’t a changing, no matter what may come our way. The most surefire way of messing up is when we try to straddle both, it never works out.

We start having trouble when we begin to flip back and forth. This chair, just like each of us, needs dedication and consistency. A dogged determination to keep on that line,” the truth.” If we ain’t careful or begin to get careless, or distracted, the entire chair becomes weak. It will either fall to pieces when the first storm comes along or just not last very long. At that point, it’s just gonna end up in a dark corner, dusty and useless. A mind full of “what could have been.”

The good Lord gave us the truth, a fine line. Oh…although we might not like it at times, if we follow that simple rule, the joints will be tight and strong. Each piece will support the others and countless folk will enjoy a good rest in this plain old chair for many years to come. Heck, it may even get stronger with age as far as we know. All because of a fine line, and the careful nature each of us possesses to follow it. The best advice I can give a person, young or old, is to get comfortable and stay on that fine line, “the truth.”

PARABLE; (noun) A short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or religious principle. Meriam-webster.

Folks this is the first in our little series, I get to reflect on myself as I write them. Most times I don’t care for what I find there, but it’s a process and I spose that’s the way it’s spose to work. I’m taking a chance with the word “parable,” but I think it fits. Let me know what you think about it. The next story being titled “The parable of the grey sweats.” It’s about a young man who, due to his appearance, never really fits in. I hope to see you there.

As usual, The Tin Cup Clan thanks you for spending time with us. Time is precious and we are honored you chose to spend just a bit here. Please do us a kindness and hit a few buttons, like us, follow us, and share it with at least one person. Comments and e-mails are great as well.

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