Billy’s Bucket

My sister was kind enough to take Mercy to the downtown library last week, and Mercy and Aaron are so excited to have new books in the house. Aaron is addicted to a Thomas the Tank Engine storybook collection (he finds the page with the Troublesome Trucks story every time and wants to read it), and Mercy is fascinated by two books about a Knight and some dragons.

My favorite book of the bunch is a book called Billy’s Bucket. In this book, a little boy asks for a bucket for his birthday. The parents think this is weird, but they go ahead and indulge him and they go to the bucket store and let him pick one out. When Billy gets home, he immediately fills his bucket up with water. He starts to describe for his parents all the things he sees inside his bucket: a submarine, a mermaid, sea lions, and a shark. His parents go along with it, laughing at him. Thinking they are funny, his parents ask him if they can borrow the bucket for some work projects around the house. Billy gets very serious and forbids them from ever borrowing it. His parents wink and chuckle and put their son to bed.

The next morning, Billy’s bucket is missing. Dismayed, he walks outside to look and there in the middle of the street, atop cars and light posts, sits an enormous smiling whale. The text reads:

“By the time Billy found his dad, he was too late!

‘I told you not to borrow my bucket,’ said Billy.

It took Billy’s mom and dad six hours, three fire engines, four cranes, and a shoehorn to get the whale back in the bucket. They never ever borrowed Billy’s bucket again.”

I love this story for the artwork, the whimsy, and the way the smug parents get put in their place. But I also love it for the ways it resonates with how I can feel about the Kingdom sometimes. Like I am gazing into something fantastic, beautiful, majestic in scope, hidden inside the ordinary, unseen and unimaginable to most. And the parents’ mockery feels a bit familiar as well when I consider how absurd the things I believe can appear to those around me. Love across cultural divisions? The sacrifice of status, money, advancement? Material simplicity? Peace in South Central?

Scot McKnight posted a letter he recently received from a young future pastor wrestling with what it really meant to preach in the local church today. “What is preaching? Who is it for? How do we learn to do it? How do we judge if we’re doing it well?” were his questions, and Scot opened up the comments for his readers to respond. I started to leave a response a couple of times that day but never finished it, but I think that what I would tell this future pastor is that preaching is a lot like Billy looking inside his bucket and describing the amazing things that he sees.

This past week, a dear friend mailed a sweet package to Mercy, and in it was a tiny envelope bearing my name. Inside was a card with this verse written on the back: “Your road led through the sea…a pathway no one knew was there (Psalm 77:19).” These words brought tears to my eyes as they do even now in writing this. How marvelous and mysterious are the ways of God. Oh Lord, please give me the eyes to see.

1 comment

  1. One of the most fun things I do with my kids is read stories and now I’m going to have to try to find Billy’s Bucket. What a wonderful way to express what preaching ought to be. This post expresses a feeling I often have about how absurd the reality I know and believe in seems to so many of the people I know. I join you in your prayer for eyes that see and a life that tells about it.

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