Monday, August 24, 2015

The Faithful and Sensible Steward: The Adventures of Alfred the Butler, part 5

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"And the Lord said, 'Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.'Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few." Luke 12: 42-48 NASB

In case you're just joining us, we have taken a little segue for the story of Alfred the Butler. It's an allegory and it has surprised me as much as anyone. 

Alfred has been a butler for a long time. He has a great master who announced he was giving Alfred a new job. Instead of being a butler, he is now in charge of grain distribution. You might want to read the previous stories to get caught up. Alfred # 1Alfred # 2Alfred #3, and Alfred #4

We pick up the story late on the first night. Alfred had worked past his usual bedtime and had cleaned 500 square feet of a 100,000 square foot warehouse. He finally stopped for dinner, but all he could find was a long-opened jar of peanut butter. He ate two big spoonfuls and went back to his work.

Alfred had picked up trash and swept up dirt for more than twelve hours. It's 2 am and he's finally finished his goal of cleaning a 1000 square foot area. He walks back to the little bedroom. When he flicks on the light, he hears a scurrying of little feet and sees four gray mice running under the bed. There is no way he can sleep in this room. 

Alfred doesn't even bother resenting this new assignment from the master. Missing his wonderful bed with the down duvet would take more energy than he has left. He slides the pillow out of the soiled pillow case and trudges back to the area he's already cleaned. He puts his bare pillow in the center of the 1000 square feet, lies down, and promptly falls asleep. 

It's been a long and very hard day, but so far, Alfred has made good choices. 

When he awakens at 7 am, Alfred has had five hours of sleep. His body is aching from sleeping on the floor and his muscles are stiff from the unaccustomed physical exertion. He can see the difference in the warehouse, and is determined to do as much today as yesterday. He is determined to keep his good attitude and to make wise decisions again today.

Attitudes and decisions are choices we make. If we have bad attitudes, it's because we made that choice. If we make bad decisions, it's a result of choice. 

We can do better. If we will.

Unfortunately, not everyone associated with Alfred has the same determination. Jack is the master's gardener. He loves working outside and keeping the gardens beautiful. He loves working in the roses and the other flowers. The master's gardens are a testimony to his skill.  Today is his day off. 

Master stops by and says, "Jack, Alfred is working in the grain warehouse and he has a big job. He could use some help today. What do you have planned for your day off?" 

Jack smiles. "That Alfred is a hard worker. He can handle it. I need some 'me time' today. I'm going to get a barber shave and have a massage. After that, I'm meeting some friends for tennis and lunch. This afternoon, I'm reading a new novel. I have a great day planned." 

"That sounds like a fun day. If you decide to help Alfred, let me know. Have fun."

Jack nods. "I'll do that, Sir. You have a nice day, too." Jack thinks, "There is no chance I'm going to help fusty old Alfred. He can deal with grain himself. It's not like I need the grain in the warehouse. What good will it do me?" He wisely refrains from telling the master this, though.

Jack chooses his busy, fun day. 

Alfred chooses to press on. 

At this point, he's exhausted, hungry, and sleep-deprived. He could use some "me-time", too. Fortunately for Alfred and his friendship with Jack, he will never know about the choice Jack made. But Jack will know. One day, Jack may wish he'd made a better choice. But it will not be this day.

Alfred remembers the Eggs Benedict and thick-sliced bacon from yesterday's breakfast. He misses Cook more than ever, but there's nothing to be done about it now. He goes back to the little kitchen, washes his spoon again (there's no telling what has walked over that spoon during the night), and eats two big spoonfuls of peanut butter. If only he had some coffee.

After his quick breakfast, he trudges back to the warehouse, finds a new garbage bag, and starts on the second 1000 square feet. 

He's one-fourth of the way through the second section when Alfred hears a car pull up. It's the master. Great, Alfred thinks, I can tell the master this is too hard a job. He will need to get someone else. I'm going back to being a butler.

The Master comes in with a basket, a red-checked cloth tucked atop the contents. A fabulous aroma wafts from beneath the cloth. "Hi, Alfred. I thought you might need some breakfast. Cook sent you a little something. Stop and eat." 

Alfred hurries to the basket. When he lifts the cloth and sees the food tucked inside, he has to blink back tears. Homemade banana nut bread. Still warm. A thermos of coffee. Link sausages. Biscuits. Orange and grapefruit salad. A plate, knife, fork, and spoon. A cup and saucer. When Alfred sees the cup and saucer, symbol of the life he left to work in the warehouse, he can't hold back. Tears begin to trickle down his cheeks. 

The Master sees Alfred's tears and they break his heart. He knows Alfred is working too hard. He knows Alfred is doing this because of his great love for his master. He knows the job is too much for Alfred. He also knows that the work will change Alfred into a stronger, wiser man and that he has a wonderful surprise planned for Alfred when this horrible job is done.

He puts his arm around Alfred's shoulder. "You've done a good job, Alfred, and you've accomplished more than I expected. Stop now, and eat. I brought a few things for you, and I've come to help." 

Master spreads the cloth (which was a little table cloth) on the floor, sets the tableware and the food out, and directs Alfred to the picnic. Next, the master does the most surprising thing. He sits down with Alfred. "Tell me all about it, Alfred," he says, and Alfred does.

"Oh, Alfred, I'm sorry it was so hard, but I can help. First, those mice need to go somewhere else. I brought ultrasound plug-ins to chase off the mice." Alfred's heart leaps in his chest. Hooray! Alfred can't stand mice.

"I have something else for you, Alfred. You need a decent bed to sleep in. I ordered you a new mattress and box springs. The one you have is in terrible shape. They couldn't deliver it to you until today, but it will be here later this afternoon. I brought clean bedding, too. Just send the old bedding with me and I'll deal with it."

Alfred is already feeling better. His hope is restored. The master hasn't forgotten him. The master knows his needs. Maybe he shouldn't quit after all.

"Finish your coffee while I bring a few things in from the car." The master comes back with two new push brooms and a variety of cleaning supplies. He has several large boxes. Alfred can't image what's in the boxes. All he knows is that his master has seen his needs and has met them. 

Alfred has experienced the truth David wrote about in Psalm 23. "He makes me lie down in green pastures... He prepares a table before me..." He has a master who cares about him and meets his needs.

It's easy to wish for our needs to be met in a certain way and miss the sweetness of the provision our Lord makes. Certainly Alfred would have enjoyed bone china and heavy sterling silver with a gourmet meal but, with an humble grateful heart, he was able to see the picnic on the warehouse floor as a tremendous blessing. 

Every gift from God is a blessing, even when it's not the one we wanted.

For today, let's focus on the provisions God has made, even when they weren't made in the way we hoped. Let's give thanks for the gifts we've been given. Let's press on.
Almighty God, who lives and reigns forever, we give you thanks for all the gifts you have bestowed upon us. Thank you for the gifts we wanted and for the ones we didn't know we needed. Thank you for being our Good Shepherd. In Jesus' name, Amen.

#disciple, #JesusChrist, #Alfredthebutler, #servant #countyourblessings