As a growing boy I was good at playing marbles in our Detroit neighborhood. One day I entered a marble contest sponsored by the YMCA and won! My father’s empty cigar boxes filled increasingly with my growing loot as I played “for keeps.” I still have a large tin box with marbles won in that more innocent day.
When a picture of planet Earth appeared, taken from the moon by one of our astronauts years ago, I framed it and hung it on my study wall. I had a marble of similar coloring. Ever since that picture in Time magazine, I’ve carried my blue marble with me. When a store clerk sees it in my handful of change and asks, “Why the marble?” I put it in my other outstretched hand and say, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” It’s a way to witness—a gimmick—to get a spiritual conversation going.
After my article titled “Blue Marble” appeared on this page some years ago, followed by my book with the same title, I was pleased to note how often, while shaking hands after a church service, people would reach into their pockets or purses to show me their blue marbles. Sometimes I think about what a lot of mileage I’ve gotten for my Lord out of what I used to call my “Old Bluewy.”
The other day, while parking downtown, as I fished in my pocket for a quarter for the parking meter, my blue marble fell out and rolled under the car. A disaster! Retrieving it would make me late for my appointment, to say nothing of messing up my suit in my effort to regain it.
I got down on one knee to see where it lay. There it was! It had rolled under my car to the exact center.
Minds do funny things. When I saw where it lay, Murphy’s Law popped into my head. I’ve memorized quite a few of Murphy’s Laws, just for the fun of it. I know God’s Law, having read and preached about it often. I’ve examined Boyle’s Law in physics and forgotten it altogether. Somewhere between those two extremes, I remember some of Murphy’s Laws:
“Anything that can go wrong, will.”
“There’s never time to do it right, but always time to do it over.”
“A shortcut is the longest distance between two points.”
“If you try to please everybody, nobody will like it.”
“In any hierarchy, each individual rises to his or her own level of incompetence.”
“No good deed goes unpunished.”
“Where you stand on an issue depends on where you sit.”
I have discovered the truth of all these laws, more or less, in pursuit of ministry.
There is still another of Murphy’s Laws. It came into my head while peering under my car at my distant marble: “Any coin dropped while standing beside your car will immediately roll underneath to the exact center.” That happens with marbles too. I got down flat on my back, reaching with my foot for what had rolled under. A pair of brown shoes appeared and stopped to ask if I was all right.
Me: “I’m trying to reach my blue marble.”
Brown Shoes: “You’re what?! What did you say?”
Some black shoes appeared and addressed Brown Shoes.
Black Shoes: “Is he all right?”
Brown Shoes: “He wants his marble.”
Black Shoes: “You gotta be kidding. What kind of marble is it?”
Some sneakers appeared, embracing growing feet. Sneakers: “Sir, can I help you?”
Me: “I want my marble.”
Sneakers: “Let me get it for you.”
And so I learned something more with my marble: “He’s got the whole world in his hands. Yes, and never drops it.”
Beneath are the everlasting arms!
About the Author
Rev. Jacob D. Eppinga was pastor emeritus of LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church, in Grand Rapids, Mich. He went to be with his Lord March 1, 2008. This column concludes his popular “Cabbages and Kings” series, which he wrote for 40 consecutive years. Watch for It’s All Grace, a collection of his best and more recent columns to be published in book form this fall by Faith Alive Christian Resources.