When I was five years old I thought our preacher hung the moon.
Coal black hair. Big expressive eyes. And a smile that you never had to wait for.
At church on Sunday nights he invited all the kids to come sit on the front pew of the auditorium and take turns reciting the memory verse that had been printed in the bulletin that week just for us.
He called it “pew packers.”
My mother would get the bulletin out before church and help me memorize the Bible verse. I would say it over and over again in the car on the way there so that I wouldn’t forget it when it was my turn.
Each week I waited for him to squat down in front of me with the microphone, my heart pounding faster as he approached. Then before I knew it, he was right in front of me, and for an instant I couldn’t remember. But somehow the verse always came out. And his smile and eyes grew even bigger.
One week after church on a Wednesday night, while people were standing around talking in the foyer, he invited me into his office nearby.
I’ll never forget the blue carpet on the floor and the walls of books around his desk.
The preacher sat down at his desk and opened the top drawer, telling me he had something he wanted to give me. He pulled out two red marbles and placed them in my hand.
To this day, I don’t know why he chose to give me marbles.
But it didn’t matter. Those marbles might as well have been rubies.
I took them home and kept them for years in an old cigar box.
I still have them.
I don’t know if Jimmy Jividen knew how powerful those marbles were, but I got to thinking about him this week while I was eating lunch with my current preacher.
Maybe I enjoyed that lunch as much as I did partly because of Jimmy.
What would it be like if every kid encountered a preacher who made them feel that special? What if every kid associated preachers – someone who helps you learn about God – with someone who makes time for you and squats down to your level? Who’s interested in what you have to say and smiles at you a lot?
Even when you don’t know the memory verse.
Even if you lose your marbles.