When I was a kid, in the back of many of my comic books, there was an ad for the Johnson Smith Company. This was a company that provided novelty items: whoopee cushions, hand buzzers,
x-ray glasses…you get the picture. Out of all the offerings, only one caught my eye: the “surprise package.” You ordered it blindly, trusting the company to send you something worth your hard-won allowance money.
I filled out the form, stuffed my money in an envelope and waited for weeks.
One day, a smallish brown manila envelope was waiting on the dining room table for me after school. I tore the end open and dumped the contents out excitedly. Among the little trinkets they sent, there was what appeared to be a small, blue toy submarine. I tried floating it in the bathroom sink, but it sank. The maiden voyage ended in disaster. I was devastated. Seemed like some major parts were missing. I had waited all this time for something that was incomplete.
Sitting at the table, crying with my head buried in the crook of my elbow, I told my mother that they hadn’t sent me all the parts. She picked up the submarine, put the end of it in her mouth, and a buzzing squawk came out. She handed it back to me, “That’s because it isn’t a submarine; it’s a kazoo.”
I stopped crying out of confusion. “What is a kazoo?” I asked.
“It’s an instrument. You make music with it.”
Oh. And, no.
While waving the kazoo in the air, I screamed at the heavens, “I saved my allowance for this!?”
On that day, that little blue kazoo became a point of discontent for that six-year-old heart. Every time I would see it, I would cringe.
For years now, I have thought of that “imposter submarine” as a perfect illustration of asking for one thing and getting another. I would pray and pray, and wait and wait…only to receive something I didn’t ask for, or I didn’t understand, or it would seem that my prayers went unanswered altogether.
(That’s where trust comes in, I know…but it’s still hard, in fact, sometimes it seems impossible.)
God has given me quite a few “blue kazoos” at times, and every one of them has frustrated me. You’ve probably gotten them too. No fun, right?
A few weeks ago, I visited my family in Mississippi. I spent much of the time there in prayer and seeking God, but didn’t seem to get any real answer at all. During that frustration, I took a drive over to my late grandparents’ home. Turning the old skeleton key in the lock, I pushed the door open, and the scent of my childhood washed over me. Memory after memory rushed to mind as I walked down the hallway. Standing in the doorway of the living room, my eyes fell to a sunbeam shining through the blinds. There, on the floor, illuminated by that shaft of light, was the blue kazoo.
The old reminder of asking one thing of God and being given something else surfaced yet again. I knelt down, picked it up, looked heavenward and said, “Well God, here I am, looking at this thing, and I don’t understand what You are doing at all…again.”
Fast-forward just a bit more…
All of the memories about that kazoo came back to me this morning. I was reading Psalm 37:4, when, at that exact moment, there was a knock at my office door. Jon, one of our pastors (who is the most musically talented man I have ever met), asked me, “You wouldn’t happen to have a kazoo, would you? I’m doing a musical program for the senior adult luncheon today, and I need a kazoo for one of the songs. Of all the people on staff, if anyone has one, it would be you.”
I chuckled. Again, God was bringing up kazoos. And He did it while I was reading, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Nice touch, God.
I checked my desk’s catch-all drawer and shook my head, no kazoo there.
But, I thought again…
“Jon, let’s take a walk.”
We went to my truck, and pulled the blue kazoo from the console, where it had been for weeks…ever since I lifted it from that sunbeam in my grandparents’ living room.
My kazoo, the one that has been shuffled from toy box, to closet, to my mom’s drawer and back again. The kazoo that survived me chewing on it, stepping on it and throwing it against the wall in frustration. The kazoo that wasn’t thrown out when my grandparents’ house was being cleared due to storm damage. The kazoo that was picked from some bin by some employee from a novelty company in New Jersey over 30 years ago and stuffed into a manila envelope.
The kazoo that wasn’t at all what I wanted, and I thought it wasn’t what I would need…ever.
The small reminder of seemingly unanswered prayers grew into a monument to God’s eternal faithfulness.
I looked it over and handed it to Jon. I smiled at him and said, “It’s been a long time getting here.”
I went back to my office, looked upward and said, “Thank You, Father.”
Then I remembered the email.
A couple of friends of mine have been praying this week for some specific things on my behalf. Two days ago, I received an email from one of them detailing how God had shown up in a small way to help her at her exact moment of need. She wrote:
It reminded me how God cares for me even in the smallest of things I hadn’t even asked for or anticipated I needed, and it encouraged me to think that this is how He is, moment by moment, being mindful of me and caring for me even in what would be seemingly insignificant in the whole scheme of things. Surely He has more important things to do, yet the God of the universe provided for me…
And so this morning when I was praying for you, I prayed for a moment for you like this, this week – a moment that may seem so small or insignificant but a moment that made you know how intimately the Lord cares for you and is mindful of you moment by moment.
Her prayer was answered.
Jon’s need was met.
My faith was increased.
Right on time.
You wouldn’t happen to have a kazoo, would you?
James 1:17; 5:7-8