God’s butterknife

There’s a well-worn story that circulates in the spring time, often around Mothers’ Day:

A woman is doing some minor household repair, assembling flat-pack furniture or something – maybe she’s at a friend’s house, helping the friend move – and finds she lacks the right tool for the job.

She calls out to a small child nearby, “Can you go get me a screwdriver?”

The child replies, “Do you want a mommy screwdriver or a daddy screwdriver?”

Perplexed, the woman responds, “I don’t know. Bring me a mommy screwdriver.”

The child promptly returns with a butterknife.


I’ve been thinking about this one today, on my Monday-after-the-holiday off, performing my domestic duties as cat furniture and catching up on light housekeeping and half-abandoned projects. The calendar is shaped differently for people who work in churches and hospitals, and I have been doing just enough of each that I seldom remember what day of the week it is, if it isn’t Sunday, and sometimes I am not sure about that.

Ministry is odd work. Sometimes frustrating, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes exciting, sometimes satisfying, but always odd. Sometimes it involves fixing an old toilet chain with a paper clip, or making a checklist that includes cookies, kitty litter buckets, a manuscript, and an overnight bag. It involves changing gears from the sublime to the absurd and back again, always expecting that something unexpected will come up.

For all the things I know how to do, or am learning, I keep finding there are more things I do not even know where to start with. So I hope that, like the butterknife, my showing up and being of service in the moment is enough.

A butterknife, after all, is great for spreading butter, or cutting pancakes; but it also makes a serviceable standard screwdriver in a pinch, and can be pressed into service as an ice scraper, or used to jimmy open a stuck cocoa can or a recalcitrant bathroom door. It can be a straight edge, or a thumbtack-pusher, or used to stir the spaghetti sauce when the spoon has escaped somewhere. There are better tools for most of these things, but then in the moment there is the butterknife.

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