Of Pens and People
Pens have always intrigued me. Taking cheap ballpoint pens apart in church helped time go by as a kid and annoyed my mother beyond words. Feeling how smoothly my 19-cent BIC wrote on my KEDS’ white rubber soles and toe caps was almost worth the trouble it put me in.
When I got older I began to notice the nicer ones, though, then came to like them. Fine point? Better still.
In college, Roger Rose, the chairman of the music department and my vocal coach at Grand Rapids School of the Bible and Music had a way of capping his pen and setting it down whenever I came to his desk to ask a question of him. His was a Parker pen like the one then President Carter used to sign official documents in Washington, and made a unique click when the cap locked into place. I asked him one day why he always capped his pen and set it down when we began to talk. His answer made an impression on me. “As long as this cap is off, there are thoughts up here in my head trying to get onto this paper in front of me. Putting it down tells my mind to wait while you and I talk.”
Not long after I entered the ministry Dad told me the story of one of F.B. Meyer’s pens. Apparently he kept a fountain pen on his desk that would not write. People would often pick it up to write a note or sign something and Pastor Meyer would gently say “I don’t use that pen.” Slightly surprised, his guest would usually quickly set it back down and politely ask why. “It refuses to be filled,” he’d say “So I don’t use it.”
Thinking that a pretty good object lesson, I decided not long after to buy a pen like that someday, knowing it didn’t write, so I could use the same line in my ministry. I bought this pen at an antique store in the town of Miller, South Dakota near Mom and Dad’s for all of $10 and placed it on my desk as I imagined F.B. Meyer had. Sure enough, I was able to borrow Pastor Meyer’s line a few times, and make an illustrative point.
Then came the day I sat, phone to my ear, and waited. And waited. And waited some more, on hold for something important enough to tolerate being on hold for so long. I picked up this pen and began to toy with it. I took it apart the way I did ballpoints when I was a kid, only more carefully. Gently checking things over and lightly twisting back and forth, something gave a little bit. Then a little more. Black flecks of dried ink began to land on my desktop. Seeing what looked like progress, I began to work with my Parker 21 more intently and it yielded to my touch. After the phone call ended I soaked and cleaned it, then carefully put it back together. After who knows how many years of idleness, it re-entered the realm of useful service.
Today it has a place on my desk, the closest pen to me, the first I reach for when I am at my desk at home. It’s my favorite. It fills easily. Readily. I keep it full. And I use it often. From dis-use to favored-pen; what a change cleansing, restoration and a willingness to be filled can make.
It’s true of pens, it’s even more true of people. Are you willing to let the Spirit fill you?