No, you did not read that incorrectly. I said “fork”, not “fort”. I’m often surprised to see how many of my life’s experiences have wound up on these pages over the last 18 years. Since 2005, I have made you privy to my failures and foibles and introduced you to a little of my faith as well. So, why would I hold back now?
There have been many chapters in this book of my life, and my kids would attest to it. They know when I start a sentence with “back when I” that a story is soon to follow….when I was little, when I worked for old man Sprague, when I was a court reporter, when I played for, when I sang with….the list goes on.
I have worn many, many hats and continue to do so. Currently, I am a songwriter, as well as chief cook and bottle washer around here, in addition to Bruce’s amateur barber, part-time surrogate grandmother, occasional chauffeur, unpaid psychiatrist, family historian, and official social media cynic. But one thing I never foresaw cropping up in my job description is “keeper of the fork”.
Bruce and I are empty nesters now, but there was a time when the kids moved in and out with numbing regularity. Yes, we love and treasure our kids, but the Waldorf Astoria never had such a revolving door. I never quite knew who or how many I was cooking for when I got home from work and, for a person who needs a plan and makes lists, that was difficult. (And if it isn’t on the list and I do it, when I’ve done it, I put it on the list and then cross it off.) It seems like every time I turned around something was missing. You know how it happens…maybe a butter knife is used as a substitute screw driver and it just never finds its way back. Blankets and towels are borrowed and never returned. Dishes are broken and just placed secretly into the trash without a word. Stuff happens.
At any rate, during that period of time, although I had three or four sets of cutlery, Bruce would only use one particular set. He was especially particular about the forks. They had to be the correct weight, not so heavy as to be cumbersome and not so light as to bend. They had to have four tines, not five, and tines not too close together. They had to have the correct degree of tilt at the neck where it swoops up into the handle (not too flat and not too curved), and, of course, the handle had to be just so wide and just so thick. All other forks are, as he would say, “evil”. As you can imagine, after nearly twenty-five years of marriage and kids in and out, there is just one such perfect fork left. One, count ’em, Jim…out of a service for twelve. One.
So I am the “guardian of the fork”….the Goldilocks of utensil-dom, the one that is “just right”…the one that he will empty the drawer looking for or reach into a sink full of dirty dishes to retrieve…because nothing else will do. Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty of things I’m particular about…but forks isn’t one of them. As long as there’s one tine left, I’ll stab at whatever I’m eating until it’s gone. But it’s important to him; therefore, it’s important to me. So I guard the fork. When people come for supper, I pull that one aside for him. If it’s dirty, I dig it out of the suds and wash it first. I watch carefully to make sure it’s not accidentally scraped off the plate to vanish into the abyss of egg shells and coffee grounds. There really is a point to all this.
I was thinking the other day about how much we “guard the forks” in our lives. Oh, I’ve got a few…like “don’t park your car where my car goes”. That’s my spot. It’s closer to the front door so I don’t get drenched if it’s raining and a shorter distance to carry groceries from the car. At least that’s what I tell myself. And Heaven forbid if one of the kids or a service person parks there!
I have a little booth in a local restaurant where I like to hide away on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons with a glass of sweet tea and my notebook to write. I want THAT booth. It’s farthest from the big rowdy corner booth. It’s comfortable there…warmer and not next to a distracting window. I nearly always get the same server. She knows what I want and to make herself scarce, other than for refills, while I’m working. I don’t want anyone but Claire.
Of course, I have a church “fork”, too. There’s a particular seat in a particular row on a particular side of the balcony that is “mine”. I like it there. I can kick off my shoes and almost nobody knows; plus, I can scribble down that brilliant song hook the preacher just gave me, unbeknownst to him, and there’s hardly anyone up there to look over my shoulder. I don’t like it when someone is in MY seat or even my row.
All these petty things. Aren’t they really born out of a sense of entitlement and a need to protect yourself? After all, I pay the mortgage here. I should be able to park in the prime spot. Bruce brings home the bacon. Shouldn’t he be able to use the fork he wants to eat it? And as far as church is concerned, my folks were a part of the original congregation of that church in 1941. Shouldn’t my seat be emblazoned with a gold plaque with my name scrawled on it?
Not according to Phillippians 2:3-4, which says “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interest of the others.” Ouch. What if I laid down my “fork” just once and let someone else sit in my seat? Here’s a scary thought. What if I left the balcony altogether and sat elsewhere?
What if I swapped places in the driveway occasionally? What would it hurt? Is that what Romans 12:10 talks about when it says to “prefer one another”? Can I be honest? As I’m typing this I feel my neck tightening up just at the thought of stepping out from behind my fork. That must mean change is due.
You might have some forks, too. So you pray for me and I’ll pray for you and maybe together we can stop our silly fork guarding, because we really do have more important things to worry about, namely the work of the Kingdom.