Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Just an Old Table

This is just an old table. 

At some point in the fall of 1986, I sat at an old table in an art class at Hope Christian School and scratched out a message from God to my future self. 

I was a freshman in high school. My teacher's name was Mrs. Clingman. Since it was already an old table at the time, it was covered with scratches, indentations, stains and drops of paint. I can remember scratching the bubbles out of the dried paint drops. You can see that in this picture: 

I also remember sitting at the other end of the table and noticing a little indentation that looked like an eye. I was probably supposed to be working on some other project or listening to my teacher give instructions on the next project we were to be working on or an art technique that I was going to need to use, but instead, I was doodling on that eye. And I can actually remember thinking to myself, I am going to write "I see you!" for someone else, someone who would come along after me and see this little eye and its little message. 


This morning I swung by our little church on my way to teaching summer school. My father had pulled these old tables out of our storage shed to toss into the dumpster we had rented. He had texted that he needed help getting them into the dumpster the previous day. He had been able to pull them out of the shed, but with the heat, he thought it best not to attempt tossing them into the dumpster by himself. I volunteered to meet him after my school day and help him throw them in, but decided on my own that I would just swing by there in the morning and throw them away. These tables had been in my life for as long as I could remember. I had probably sat at them during a vacation Bible school when I was 6 years old. 

To be more to the point, the previous Saturday we had a church clean up scheduled (hence the rented dumpster). Some of us who had been a part of Edgewood the longest, especially those of us who had attended when we were at the previous building, were having a challenging time watching some of the items make it into the dumpster. They were items that needed to go, but each one had a multitude of memories attached to them. For my wife and myself it was especially difficult because it felt like our time in ministry... with the bulletin boards we had made and designed, the things we had kept for a potential future aspect of the ministry, white boards and chalk boards we had put teaching notes on... were all headed for the dumpster. 

So I didn't want anyone with me when I went to throw these tables away. I had thought that maybe these tables might make it into a futue fellowship hall. ... Foolish, I know. Who wants old tables in a new fellowship hall? Especially these old, and might I say, exceptionally heavy, tables. These old discardable tables. These old tables that were only used for loaning for garage sales. These old tables that had been there for countless potlucks, Easter sunrise breakfasts, and various fellowship meals. These old tables that I had griped about their weight more times that I could remember. These old tables that were resigned from ministry and in the shed, but now were going to make their way to a dumpster. Just some old discardable, useless tables, no longer fit for ministry at Edgewood Church. 

But on the very last table I picked up... I knew this table was there, because I wanted a picture of the paint drops I had scratched off... and it was the final table. And then I saw it. As I lifted the next to last table to toss into the dumpster.... as I was contemplating the similarity between these tables and my life and time in ministry... I saw it. 

Oh. I had seen it before and knew that I was most likely the one that had written it, but when I saw it this time, the memory of scratching those words into the table came flooding back, but instead of seeing these words for what my intention had been when I had scratched them into that table in 1986, I saw them ... no... I heard them spoken to me, and my Lord, my Savior, my King, my Good Shepherd said to me, "I see you!"