Five months into our young marriage Dee Dee and I bought our first home. To celebrate this unbelievable occasion, our friends threw us a house-warming party. Several couples chipped in and bought us a kettle grill. You’ve seen the kind, those black porcelain-covered, almost egg-shaped, three-legged barbecuing wonders. They are known as Webers, except, because our crowd was fresh out of college and financially challenged, they bought us an off-brand, what we affectionately called our Webber-Wanna-Be.
Dee Dee and I proudly set our new grill out in the dirt, just to the right of the small concrete block that masqueraded as a back porch, and wasted no time in pressing the Weber-Wanna-Be into service. Our first official grilling fed those very same friends who gave her to us. The guys fired up the coals as the ladies did whatever ladies do during barbecues. Soon smoke rolled out of her vents and streamed into our small window over our kitchen table, where the women were holding court.
A sudden downpour threatened the party. Banished to the muddy backyard, all of us guys gathered round the grill in our rain ponchos and suddenly the Weber-Wanne-Be became a camp fire. We poked the coals, shifted out of the smoke, flipped burgers, and waxed eloquent. I don’t remember exactly the topic, but I’m sure the slim chance of the Denver Broncos making another Super Bowl came up. I know we also discussed our new marriages–what it was like sharing everything with a woman–what our futures held–whether our meager incomes could support us–how our entire worlds had turned upside down–that we were the luckiest guys in the universe. None of us really noticed all of this then. We just thought we were doing what young friends do: sharing a meal and a laugh and a prayer. To us the Weber-Wanna-Be remained a simple grill on which I turned hamburgers to hockey pucks.
Later Dee Dee and I read about a special way to roast a turkey on a grill. It sounded like such an easy recipe even I couldn’t ruin it. So on Thanksgiving day we plopped a 16 pounder on the grill. My mother nervously watched her son, who, while growing up, couldn’t fix himself a bowl of cereal, run in and out from the back stoop basting, and probably ruining, the holy bird of Scott family traditions. To my surprise, the turkey turned out so tender that my mother instantly pronounced it a new Scott tradition. Somehow I, and the Weber-Wanna-Be, rose in stature in the sight of my family that day.
Over the next few years, we cooked anything we could on the Weber-Wanna-Be. We laughed and took pictures and ate and planned the next barbecue. We even hauled her to parks for picnics where the same group friends gathered for “Airforce Football,” and offering smoky prayers deeper than the “Good friends, good grub, good God! Let’s eat” type. From barbecue to barbecue, our group nursed premature children, lost jobs, fought cancer, worried over rocky marriages, and grew close. Sometimes it felt like our only hope was that the smoke from our Weber-Wanna-Be would carry our combined prayers higher than we could lift them ourselves.
Soon the Weber-Wanna-Be cooked better than she looked. Once she fell out of the back of my truck coming home from one of our picnics. Everyone said the dent gave the lid character. Then her handle was broken off when some boys from our youth group ran her over. Then we moved, four times in four years, chasing a dream. In Illinois we boasted a bigger deck out back but the Weber-Wanna-Be gathered only rust spots.
In Tulsa, however, we recalled her into service. One night we sat out back with new friends and sizzled brats while God dazzled us with a show of lightning bolts that surpassed any Hollywood special effects. We suddenly ceased wrestling with the issues of raising adolescents to sit in silent awe together, the grill radiating heat from the corner of the porch. We renewed that Scott tradition when our families traveled to Tulsa for our famous barbecued Thanksgiving turkey. Once again, our prayers of thankfulness rose with the blue smoke of our Weber-Wanna-Be.
But slowly, like her owners, the Weber-Wanna-Be began to show her age. We often threatened to purchase an easier to use gas grill. Then one day, almost twenty-years after that first barbecue, I returned home from work and found the old Webber-Wanna-Be waiting mutely for the next days’ garbage pick up. Stunned, I walked down to the curb fully intending, like a school child who has just discovered that prized art project in the trash, to rescue the Weber-Wanna-Be.
I yanked her out from under a broken toilet seat, an old turn-table, and several other priceless items. But the Weber-Wanna-Be was beyond even my towering handy-man skills. The vents were rusted shut or broken off. My home-made, wooden, replacement handle was charred beyond use. The plastic wheels had long ago dissolved. And the grill itself resembled a relic found after the eruption of Mount Saint Helen.
That day my burned-out grill gave me one last gift. It’s true, you know, what Jesus said. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. . .” Every day we must choose to value the eternal over the temporary. And though we all know things don’t last, even treasured things, we still struggle with those choices.
The Weber-Wanna-Be reminded me that we fail to choose the eternal because we forget what turns material things into treasures–people. The Weber-Wanna-Be smoked out a place in my heart because of the people gathered around her. People are the only eternal treasures God deposits in our day-to-day lives. Recently Dee Dee and I moved into a new house. We have added some new friends to our old ones and a new garage-sale Weber (not a Weber-Wanne-Be) to our deck. Of the two I now know which is eternal.
Editor’s note: I (Eugene) wrote this several years ago but thought it might remind us, on a day in America when we try to remember what our treasures really are and what we do have to be thankful for.
Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.
TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)
1 Peter 3:8-4:6
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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com