The Maintenance Man: A Modern Parable
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Very rarely will I post another person’s work on my blog, but this parable reflects a real life event in their life. And perhaps, as good parables do….. our lives as well. As you read it, consider who you might be, and as needed, approach God’s throne of grace…and maybe bring a friend, a pastor, a professor, a maintenance man, and find the stone who the builders rejected. To the one who wrote this, thank you my friend, for helping us see.
The Maintenance Man
Well, the stones were all square. That’s what they had in common. And they all
(or at least some of them) got walked on. And yes, they were different sizes, to form a
pattern, but each one had its place, fitting neatly into the matrix of the walkway. Anne
liked how they all fit together, and so she felt a little guilty when she accidentally kicked
one loose. Locomotion required some serious willpower these days, and she hauled
her hesitant feet behind her into the building. Muttering, a maintenance man shook his
head in annoyance at all the cementing he’d have to do to replace that chipped stone.
Unaware of his displeasure, the young lady continued toward the building. She
wasn’t convinced this whole thing was a good idea, but in the face of her obvious
incompetence, she would obey the wishes of friends and administrators. They had
noticed the permanently blank look on her face, her listlessness, and her habit of
assuming failure, and they had particularly urged her to do this. Her response had been
one of apathy and resignation. “I suppose I’ll go, but I don’t know what good it’ll do.”
Mentally she had added, “or why they bother now.”
She knew right where the Pastor’s office was, and she followed the familiar path
there. As Anne walked in, the church secretary forced the corners of her mouth up just
a little bit. With as much work as the Pastor had given her, it was the best she could do.
Anne smiled back to encourage the older woman.
“The Pastor is with someone right now. Do you have an appointment?” His
calendar lay open on her desk.
The secretary hated this part of her job. So many people were turned away. “He
is very busy today. Would you like to make an appointment for another day? I think we
could probably fit you in sometime next week, even though things are pretty hectic
“No, thank you. I think I’ll just wait, if you don’t mind.”
“He probably won’t have time for you.”
“I shouldn’t be long.”
“OK. Whatever you’d like to do.” The secretary turned back to her typing. Better
not to think about it.
Presently, the study door opened and the pastor emerged from his office with the
new organist. They were chuckling to themselves, and joking about the old, worn organ
the church had.
“Thanks, Pastor. We’ll have a go at these. If the choir can learn them well, I
think they can lead the congregation on Sunday.”
“I’d appreciate that. Oh, and also, the elders think the services are too long, so
let’s try to pick up the tempo a bit on Sunday.”
“We’re already moving at a good clip, but if there’s no other way …”
“Thanks! Have a good day!”
“You too. Bye.”
Anne shook her head to clear the cobwebs.
“Excuse me, Pastor?”
“I’m really pressed for time right now. What do you need?”
Anne followed him into the study. The pastor gave a mental groan as she closed
the study door behind her. Anne noticed. Some things never change.
“What can I do for you?” His office seemed smaller. Perhaps it was the mounds
of paper that had accumulated on his desk and on the floor next to his desk.
“Well, I’ve been having some trouble concentrating – my grades are getting lower
and lower – my advisor told me to come and see you before I flunk out.”
“Why? Did the Professor seem to think there was something I could help you
with?” His brain silently translated, “Couldn’t it have waited till after Easter?”
Anne didn’t really believe he could help her at all, unless he happened to be
carrying something sharp. She was always in somebody’s way. But she answered him
politely. “He thought you might be able to get a handle on why my act isn’t together. I
wasn’t so sure, but I promised him I’d come see you.”
“Anne, we’ve talked about this before, and I’m afraid I just don’t have anything
else to say. Until you do something about your attitudes, things are never going to
change. It’s that simple. You come to church in jeans, you never smile, and all you
seem to care about is home – whether your mom called, your dad’s new girlfriend, or
how much he’s been drinking. You’d think you were the only person jin the world who’s
lived through their parents’ divorce. Take some advice, OK? Go back to the dorm,
have some dinner, and crack the books. Let your brothers and sisters worry about your
parents. The best thing you can do for your grades is buckle down and study.”
Anne didn’t have any brothers or sisters, but somehow she didn’t think that would
matter to him. “Well, I won’t take up any more of your time. Please tell the professor I
came to see you.”
“OK. I’ve really got to go now. See you Sunday!” Pastor hurried out of the
office. He had to get to the flower shop before it closed to pick up those extra palms. If
they ran out tomorrow, the elders would be upset with him. Yes, he had things to do.
Anne showed herself out. Walking slowly, she was deep in debate with herself.
Right, toward the river, or left, toward town? She decided on left, and forced her body in
The maintenance man saw her, and hurried to finish the hedges he had begun
when she arrived. Exhausted, he decided to leave the walkway til Monday and head
home. He had a blister on his hand, but at least the hedges would look nice for Palm
Sunday. He kicked the errant walkway stone back into its hole, stomped it down good,
and packed up his things. Anyway, the sky was clouding up.
Somewhere in the back of Anne’s mind it registered. Through the cloudiness,
thunder. Although it tried, the realization didn’t manage to worm its way forward until
her cheek felt the first trickles of the downpour. Weary from the struggle to make her
feet obey, she sought shelter in a nearby drug store.
Greeting cards, prescription drugs, vitamins, magazines – the signs intruded on
her foggy consciousness. Stopping in front of the non-prescription drugs, she tried to
look like she was shopping. The clerk eyed her suspiciously.
Then, as if a breeze blew through her mind, the fog cleared, and she understood.
Smiling, she selected the generic sleeping aids.
The clerk wanted her out of his store. “That’ll be three dollars and forty-six
cents.” She was barely to the counter. Handing him three-fifty, she left without her
Leaning up against a nearby post, Anne was suddenly calm. At least she
wouldn’t be in anybody’s way anymore. Finally spotting a water fountain, she
swallowed the contents of the bottle she had just purchased, sat down on a nearby
bench, and dozed off with the rain dripping off her fingers.
The Professor seemed angry when the pastor spotted him walking into church
the next morning.
“I know she isn’t here yet, but Anne asked me to tell you that she came into see
“Yes.” His voice lowered, and took an edge to it. “Well, she won’t be coming any
more. They found her on a bench about two blocks from here.” The Professor paused
to let his words take effect. “Her parents are flying in tomorrow from Ohio. Apparently
she decided to get rid of her insomnia for good.”
The verdict had been handed down.
“She never mentioned any insomnia.”
“You never asked.”
The gavel hit the bench.
The pastor looked disgusted. The Professor left. He didn’t think he’d be back.
Slowly walking out the front door, he stopped half0way down the crumbling path. There
was mud all over, and, dep in thought, he traced something in it with his toe. Then he
shook the wet earth off his feet.
The sentence had been pronounced.
After all, it really is difficult to get good help these days. He called to the
maintenance man, just arriving for church.
“You shouldn’t have left that loose stone, you know. Now all the soil’s washed
out from underneath and the whole thing will need replacing.”
The maintenance man scowled and didn’t answer. He walked in, muttering
greetings to the Pastor as he passed, who scowled and muttered back. Now the pastor
had yet another sermon to prepare this week, and he didn’t have time to deal with
Closing thought, from the words of another battered and chipped stone, named Paul. ” 19 You Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens with everyone else who belongs to the family of God. 20 You are like a building with the apostles and prophets as the foundation and with Christ as the most important stone. 21 Christ is the one who holds the building together and makes it grow into a holy temple for the Lord. 22 And you are part of that building Christ has built as a place for God’s own Spirit to live.”Ephesians 2:19-22 (CEV)