Posted by: mikenicholsblog | October 6, 2010

no. 2

I’m not sure how long it has been for you, but think for a minute about the last time you had the joy of using a freshly sharpened No. 2 pencil.  I’m not talking about these new-fangled mechanical ones that are always standing ready to advance an adequately sharp 1/16 inch section of lead at the next click.  OK, maybe new-fangled was a bit much.  But no, I’m talking about an old school bright yellow or a natural wood tone Dixon Ticonderoga.  When was the last time?  For some, this question may find answer in a memory as far back as grade, middle or high school and the associated crippling anxiety of pop quizzes, mid-terms, or finals.  Ah, those dreaded bubble answer sheets!  For others it might be a recollection of yesterday, and a grocery list or a doodle.

For me, it was an opportunity not that long ago to be in need of something to write with, and catching a glimpse of a coffee mug stuffed full of No. 2’s all arranged with points up.  I smiled when I saw it, thinking back to the last time I actually used a No. 2 pencil, which had been a while.  I walked over to the mug and proceeded to spend the next 5-10 minutes in search of just the right one.  I looked first at the available points, and their varying degrees of sharpness.  They ranged from broken-off to razor-sharp.  I settled on a slightly rounded one, sharp enough that it would write cleanly, but not so sharp that it would break off if you put too much pressure on it.  My attention then turned to it’s eraser.  I was disappointed to find almost no eraser left, a disqualifying characteristic for sure.  So back into the cup it went, and I moved on to my next best.  I was very pleased to discover that my very next selection, one that had been a close second in the lead category, had a slightly used, but very adequate eraser.  I had found the “perfect” combination of lead, eraser and overall pencil length.  Lest one forgets, pencil length is crucial also.  A pencil that is just the right sharpness and has an adequate eraser, can be nearly useless if it does not fit comfortably in your hand.  But all that being said, I had found my “perfect” No. 2 pencil, and I was pleased.

I am trying to live my life practicing the presence with my eyes and heart open to what God is doing, even in the smallest and seemingly insignificant moments.  Little did I know as I sat back down to put pencil to paper, God was ready to hit me with a reminder about a big truth.  As I positioned the pencil in my hand and began to put downward pressure to initiate my writing, the lead from the pencil fell out.  Yes, I said “fell out”.  Not broke off … fell out.  With no audible trace, a quarter-inch section of lead simply succumbed to the slightest of pressure, and dropped out of the wood that seemed to be holding it securely just a few seconds ago.  My joy bubble burst.  And in an instant, God had presented me with a weighty reminder that, like the current state of my “perfect” No. 2, I am broken.

In front of those I love, and those whom I come into contact with everyday, I have sometimes nearly exhausted myself in an effort to appear as this pencil did to me when I picked it from amongst all the others.  Useable lead, not ultra sharp, not the sharpest, but pretty sharp and useable.  Sightly worn eraser, showing the effects of being used, not pristine and perfect, but surely adequate, and maybe even desirable.  And certainly comfortable when held.  Not out of the box, maybe showing a few bite marks on the exterior, not flawless, but comfortable, maybe even desirable when compared side-by-side with another No. 2.  And not only in front of those I love, and whom I see everyday, but also in front of God.  Admitting imperfection, but hopefully useable and maybe even desirable.  Except the real truth is, God sees through to the heart of my No. 2.  He doesn’t stand in front of the pencil cup and peruse and critique, and pick out the one that looks the part.  He knows my lead is not as it appears.

Now, I could go in any number of directions in drawing out (no pun intended) this pencil illustration.  I could talk about the truth that God can still choose to use me in spite of my broken lead.  I can further illustrate how He could pull out that loose section of lead, and throw it away as far as the east is from the west.  And how He could sharpen me again, and make me into a No. 2 that can be used for a very specific purpose.  But I will choose instead, to stop at the broken part.  And sit a while with the reminder that I am broken.

No matter what I might look like to others that may walk up to the cup looking for a new friend, or team member, or Sunday school teacher, the truth is that I am broken.  And only the One that sees through to the heart, is the only One who is never disappointed in the discovery of that brokenness.  My balloon burst when I sat down after choosing and began to write.  He rejoices.


  1. OUTSTANDING, Michael! Your messages always speak to me, but especially this one! I hope all of you are well! Keep on!!

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: