jack in the box
OUGHT. SHOULD. MUST. Three small words with perilously explosive potential. "Handle with care" should have been as plain to see as a gorilla gone ballistic at a children's petting zoo. Frightened friends feigned the warnings. Fragile. Do Not Drop. A bitter boss caused the warnings. Beware Of Dog. No Trespassing. And Jack? Jack awakened one morning in a box that belonged to an authentic litigation attorney; a square peg with wrong motives in someone else's round hole.
Overworked and underpaid. Fed up with punishing put downs by the firm's senior partner, a once summer intern nicknamed Ned. Ned had been dead from the heart down 20 years or more. Jack had been born again since he was 19. Ned flirted with the King's English like King David flirted with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:3). Everyone that knew Jack knew something was wrong - really wrong. Fearing he might respond poorly, his friends kept their distance.
At home, Jack felt like a Jewish prisoner and his home had "Auschwitz" written in sign language all over it. Sentenced to death by silence. The silence stilled his faith and stifled his spirit. Prayer had become painful. Forgiveness felt like asphalt.
Five years ago, Jack flew into enemy air space and Ned had a good shot. Anxious to devour the newest associate, he fired ground-to-air missiles with deadly precision. Jack fought the good fight both in and out of the office for almost four years. During his fifth year with the firm, his faith began to fade and the good 'ol boys from the Bible Study walked away.
Could he and should he have picked up the shattered pieces of the man that still existed from better days he'd lived before? Good question and maybe you know the answer. Understand that months of unyielding pressure had impaired his eyesight. Understand that when we question another man's character we better have some answers to explain our own. Jack did what we've all done. He did what you might be doing now. He let the sun go down on his anger one time too many (Ephesians 4:26). He cracked open the door of doubt and devilish discouragement made a mad dash for the it and ushered guilt in to act as the assassin of his faith.
You see, Jack never planned to become an attorney after he completed his undergraduate work. His real passion wasn't a real job. Not his words, but those of his father. Painting was God's gift and calling and he knew it in his heart, not just his head (Romans 11:29). Yet, acquiring his father's acceptance won out over his passion as well as his sense of purpose.
Married to his high school honey as well as a high monthly mortgage payment didn't make quitting an appealing option. Already the proud father of one with one on the way added to his financial insecurities and so he opted to stay the course and put up with Ned's oral lashings.
Another day came and Ned's neurosis sought to fool around with Jack's self-worth. But this time he went for Jack's jugular. The tiny soft tissue of Jack's heart that refused to harden; the joy that still remained. Jack's remaining joy had run to greet him every evening without fail and sat on his lap and uttered, "It's okay daddy". Jack's remaining joy hadn't yet imagined a love that walked away without a kiss goodnight. Jack's remaining joy said, "daddy," but saw Superman. Jack's remaining joy was his four year old boy, Jacob. Jacob, unlike Jack's busy wife and hushed friends, broke the silence and the code of conduct that so insidiously crept into their household.
Ned began to speak: "Should have got it right the first time, Jack. You ought to know by now that I expect perfection. Oh, and in case you forgot, it must be done today! If you want to act like Mr. Daddy-Do-Good before that bratty kid of yours goes to bed, you'd best get busy. Hope the boy has his mother's brains! Jack, I should have fired you a long time ago and saved the both of us a lot of heartache!"
Jack listened as his lips tightened. His blood pressure rose, his fists clinched. He closed his eyes and imagined Jacob's smile. He said nothing to Ned as he was blinded by the stack of bills he'd seen on the kitchen table before he left for work four hours earlier. Jack walked out in silence. He'd grown wearily used to it. He sat down as his face felt unusually tingly. He ignored it. He began to prepare his mind for a long night. A long night it would be for everyone but Jack.
You see, Jack's drive to meet the deadline caused his heart to flat line. Jack died in the box that belonged to an authentic litigation attorney. Dead at 35 from a massive heart attack. Found in his office chair the next morning by none other than Ned
Jack's joy remained. His little boy and God's miraculous creation. Jacob, like his daddy's friends, knew something was wrong. Jacob's love endured. Jacob's love stepped in when fear-wrought men walked out. He fell asleep where his daddy slept the night before. Daddy didn't come home to announce his departure or to plant a farewell kiss on his son's cherished cheek. Jesus walked in soon after Jacob had fallen asleep, and whispered in his tiny ear, "Your daddy's Home with Me."
Rather depressing story isn't it? Feeling like Jack? Jammed into a job that's joyless? You read the story and allow me to add that if you can relate, you are but one of millions. Jesus knew His disciples before hand. Matthew made nothing more than money before Jesus came along. Tax collector? Omnipotence knows our potential, His purpose, plan and specific calling for our lives.
A Jack in the box. As children, an amusing toy. Turn the crank, listen to the cheap composition, and eventually Jack pops up for a breath of fresh air. As adults, being a Jack (or Jill) in the box has been and continues to be a claustrophobic nightmare. May I encourage you to read Romans 11:29 and then Jeremiah 29:11?
Soon after reading Max Lucado's book, "It's Not About Me," I felt compelled to write and the above story is what flowed out in short order. May we all become about being God's Son Reflectors by simple obedience in using the gifts and fulfilling the calling He has provided each and every one of us.