Thursday, May 31, 2007

My Pen

I have a special ballpoint pen. I’ve had it for a long time, probably 10 years or more. It’s got three colors of ink in it and a mechanical pencil. That way I can use blue ink to mark up my books and black ink to write notes and write in my journal. And I only have to carry one pen.

I used to carry this pen in my shirt pocket until the clip got too weak to work well. Now it can slip out of my shirt pocket when I lean over. And these days I don’t wear shirts with pockets as often as I used to. So now I carry this pen in my pants pocket, with my car keys. But somehow, this pen keeps trying to escape. Once I got home from soccer practice and my pen was gone. I had to go over to the ball park in the dark and look for it. There it was in the grass at the edge of the parking lot. Must have escaped when I pulled out my car keys.

Often I have lost this pen in my car. Sometimes it can slip out of my pocket while I’m driving. How sneaky. I come inside and reach for my pen, and it’s gone. In a panic, I go back out to the car. I’m wondering if I left it somewhere or lost it. Where all have I been? Then I find it right there in the driver’s seat.

But there have been times when it’s not in the driver’s seat. Once we were at Applebee’s, and my daughter wanted a pen to use. I reluctantly gave her my pen. (You are so determined to carry that pocketbook, but you never have a pen in it. What’s the use?) Well, she indulged her artistic spirit, even making a fun note for the waitress. But alas, she left my pen on the table. When we get home, I’m hitting the roof, because she’s so irresponsible. I call the restaurant, glad that I left a decent tip, and fortunately they have found it. I make another trip to Greensboro to pick it up.

Once I was on an advertising sales call at a funeral home in Madison. I left the pen on the funeral director’s desk. When I get home, wondering where the pen could be, I immediately call him back. A woman answers. I explain what I need. She puts me on hold and goes to look. I wait. When she returns, she says incredulously, “I found an old, black pen with the paint mostly worn off.” Her voice seems to say, “I thought you were looking for a fine writing instrument. All I could find was this.”

Many times I have decided that my pen, this time, is forever lost. I was doing an interview at a cheering gym in Kernersville last winter. I felt the pen in my pocket as I walked in the building with my daughter. I instinctively check for it, lest it escape. After the interview, I walked to the car and unlocked it. I checked again for the pen, but it was gone! I felt an adrenaline rush. It could really be gone, this time. Only moments ago, I knew where it was. I go back into the gym where it’s about 80 degrees. I ask all the people I interviewed. No, they haven’t seen a pen. What’s the big deal? I’m really feeling low, walking back to the car again. It is truly gone this time. I’m walking along, consoling myself, when my daughter says, “Daddy! Here it is!” Yes! It had jumped out in the middle of the gravel parking lot.. Maybe it is wondering if I really care about it.

Just last weekend my mother and I stopped by to visit a cousin. I sat in a cushy, leather recliner in his den. We talked about family and old times. When I got home, my pen was nowhere to be found. Not in the car seat, not in the driveway. So, yet again, I called for my pen. I left a message on my cousin’s answering machine. A few hours later, my cousin’s wife calls. Yes! She had found it. She had to look very carefully. It was caught in the chair cushion. She may never have found it if she hadn’t known to look for it. Then she says, “I love finding things.” To her it was a treasure hunt, a special mission.

My pen may act like it wants to escape. But somehow it always seems to make it back home. Maybe it really wants to be home with me. Maybe it just needs to be wanted. Of course, maybe it’s just a hunk of metal with no feelings. I know that it is. But it still has value to me.

I think there’s at least one lesson about God’s love in there.