To Tickle the World

Steven James, in his book Sailing Between the Stars, ponders the roles we play in the body of Christ. He compares a couple of friends to an earlobe and a fingernail before speculating that he might be a whisker on God’s cheek.

I laughed when I read that and wondered, “Why a whisker?” An earlobe I understand and fingernails are necessary, but a whisker? What good is that? I feel that if whiskers were truly important, all of humankind would have them, but as you may have noticed, most (but unfortunately not ALL) women do not. And the majority of men in our culture shave them off. So again I ask: “What good does a whisker do?”

I started wondering why Steven James would compare himself to something so seemingly useless. Then I began to wonder why the rest of us do the same. Why do we look at our lives and think that the gifts God has given us are too small? Why do we look at all the fingers and ears and even eyelashes of our world and think we are somehow less than them because we are whiskers?

And I wonder if our gifts were meant for more than meets the eye. Because I have a memory of whiskers that is as fresh as the air I breathe in this moment.

For as long as I can remember, my grandpa had a beard. A Big, Soft, Bushy Beard flecked with browns and reds and silvers. I remember chasing my cousins through my grandparents’ house when a pair of arms would reach out of nowhere and engulf me, drawing me into my grandfather’s lap. I would brace myself for the attack even before the warning left his lips:


As his chin burrowed into my neck, my little hands would reach up to pull on his hair and shove at his face in attempt to break free. “Stop,” I would squeal through the giggles, while secretly loving every moment of our familiar game.

And that’s the memory that gives me pause. That’s the memory that makes me swallow my laughter at Steven James’ words about whiskers. Because when I look through at it that way, I can see that being a whisker in God’s Kingdom isn’t as bad as it first appears. And when I close my eyes, I can’t picture my grandfather’s hands or ears or eyelashes. But although it has been more than ten years since I’ve seen that glorious beard, I still remember the scratchy feel of Grandpa’s whiskers on my neck.

Suddenly, I’m feeling that my gifts truly matter and that there are no small roles in the intricate story God is writing through our world. But mostly, I’m realizing that whiskers aren’t useless at all. In fact, if I could choose the role I was meant to play in this story, I think I’d walk right up to the Divine Director and say:

“You know, God, I’d really love to be a whisker on Your cheek. Yes, I think I’d like to spend the rest of my life leaning down to tickle the world with Your lavish, ludicrous love.”

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