Leonard grunted as he lifted his bag of his ironwork projects to his back. He walked heavily toward the door and his apprentice jumped aside. “I hope the meeting with the King goes well.”
Leonard mumbled, “I’m not expecting much.”
The young apprentice’s eyes were big as he said, “It’s the king! He’s there to help us.”
“I know that’s what they teach you. But I’ve only done this because I’ve had to do every week for thirty years, and honestly I’d rather keep working.”
“Hasn’t he ever told you something good?”
“Maybe, but how will it help me? My goal is to keep the town supplied with picks and wheels and the fifty hinges you’ll have to make while I’m gone!” Leonard pointed at the metal squares on the work bench. “I know how to do all that better than the king does.”
“Maybe he has something new for you today,” his innocent-eyed apprentice called to him as Leonard squeezed out of the door.
“I doubt it."
Leonard looked up at the sun after he nudged his bag a few feet over the cobble stones. He was near the front of the line now. But it was probably already 11am.
When it was Leonard's turn he dragged his bag in before the king, onto the steps below his throne. Leonard mechanically laid pieces of his projects on the display rug before him without even looking at him. He always felt like he had to prove he was staying busy, earning his worth.
Today after he finished explaining to the king each of the objects he was working on he looked up at the king. The king was looking at him as if he had been thinking of something entirely different than anything he had said.
They had a tenuous relationship. It seemed like the king always told him to do things that Leonard didn’t understand how they could help. Today turned out to be no exception... at first.
“What?” Leonardo blurted out.
“Leonard, when was the last time you looked in the mirror?” The king leaned forward on the edge of the throne, elbows on the armrests and his hands folded in front of him.
“I make mirrors almost every week.”
The king was more concerned. “And, um... when was the last time you made little Emily smile?”
“She stays with her cousins all day and they play. My sister takes care of her like her mother used to.”
"I know." The king was still not satisfied. “I talk to the Arnold’s every week and Giuseppe said you are quite a fan of his beer.” The king added, “And he says it rarely makes you glad. That makes him sad because he works so hard on his beer to make people glad.”
Leonard was silent so the king continued, “And the Perinni family said you are not nice to them.”
“They never pay their rent on time."
“Don’t you remember why your father gave you that house in his inheritance? To help others?”
Leonardo was quiet. The king let him think about it.
“Do you know why you work the iron for your town each day?”
“To keep their tools sharp and machines running. The town couldn’t operate without me, so my first priority is to do my job."
The two reasons we each have our jobs, Leonard, is first, to keep ourself and others healthy and happy (which is only partly done by suppling their iron needs). And second, to give you reasons to interact with people you otherwise wouldn’t, so that you can bring them health and happiness as you interact with them.
Leonard was quiet.
“You do good ironwork, Leonard. But the people you interact with are not made happier or healthier by how you treat them, because you are not happy or healthy yourself. Our job is our medium we’ve been given to do that and you are not doing that part well. You might say, people are your irons and the service you provide is the oven and the hammer to form them. You must form it with skill. With finesse. With beauty, my friend.
After a long time of thinking, looking at the floor, Leonard asked, “So what do you want me to do?”
“You still won’t take this into consideration, will you? You just want to get out and go back to your work.” The king waited and Leonard still said nothing. “Since you won’t take a break for yourself, I’m going to take away your shop for one month.”
Leonard looked up. “But wait! You can’t do that!? How will the work get done!?”
“I talked to your apprentice and have assigned the old iron smith from Bellsworth to help part time this month. Starting with the 50 or so hinges this week.”
Leonard felt betrayed by his apprentice. He knew this whole time? Leonard finally responded, “Marco is still working!?” Marco had trained Leonardo.
“He has been bored and was looking for work again. And he is concerned for you too.”
“Does everybody have thoughts on this?!”
“Everyone can see you’re not happy.”
“Isn’t that my own business? Makes me want to not show my face to anyone. Maybe I’ll never come out of my shop again.”
“Well, now you won’t be able to go IN your shop. And it’s BECAUSE we all want you to learn how to be happy again, Leonard.”
“But, you can’t do that to me!”
The king came down the steps and stood in front of him, “We are doing it.” After a few moments of Leonard’s internal struggle, the king added, “Some of my advisors said the only way you would stop is if we broke your hands. Both of them,” The king smiled. “I told them you wouldn’t need that. Show them I’m right.”
As Leonard started to gather his things the king stopped him and his helpers gathered them up themselves. The king put his hand on Leonard’s shoulder and said, “We have something better planned for you today.” He turned and gestured to one of his helpers, who nodded and went to get something. “We’ve given you and little Emily a coach and carriage to spend the day in Bellsworth. You can say hello to Marco, he’ll ride back with you, and say hello to your wife’s family. They all miss you. We are covering all your expenses for a month, Leonard. Your only job during that time is to find happiness.
Just then his little Emily came running from a doorway and stopped short of her father, seeing he was not as overjoyed about this as she was.
Leonard looked at her.
The king said, “I think she will be the key to finding your joy. She carries it wherever she goes, like your wife did.”
Eventually Emily took Leonard’s hand and started dragging him toward the door.
“Daddy! They got us a white horse!”
Leonard was so pensive that he didn’t think to thank the king before Emily had gotten him into the beautiful carriage driven by their personal coachman.
After they got in and started trotting away he asked Emily, “Are you sure you want to do this instead of being with your aunty and cousins for a day?”
“Of course, Daddy! Because I get to be with you!”
Do we do our ministry, or our work without letting God speak into it? What if we laid our projects before him at the beginning of every day and let him speak, not only into our projects, but into what is good for our lives. Even if it means taking a break from our kingdom projects, to do something else. He cares for us more than he cares about the work we think we must do.
Raw Spoon, 11/2022, on an airplane.