Gideon’s Old, Fat Army

By Linda Porter Carlyle

Joseph Anderson Donetti felt his face grow red. “I’m never going to get this!” he exclaimed.

G.M. glanced at him over the top of her glasses. “Of course you will,” she said calmly.

Joseph shook his head. He gazed at the page of music again. “No, I won’t! I didn’t think playing the piano was going to be this hard!”

G.M. chuckled. “Why not?” she asked. “You’ve got 10 fingers all doing different things. You thought that would be easy?”

Joseph sighed. “I’m not even using 10 fingers,” he replied. “I’m just trying to use one at a time!”

G.M. laughed again. A soft laugh.

Joseph didn’t mind. It was not a making-fun-of-him laugh. It was sort of a comforting laugh. It made him think maybe all this new stuff might not be absolutely impossible to learn after all.

G.M. got up and walked over to the piano. “You’re learning to read music,” she said. “You learned how to read English, didn’t you? You can learn how to read music too.” She stopped talking, put her hand on Joseph’s shoulder, and listened intently. “What in the world is that sound?” she asked.

Joseph listened too. A kind of tap, tap, tap noise seemed to be coming from upstairs. He jumped off the piano bench. “I shut my bedroom window when it started to rain,” he said. “I think it’s Mac! She can’t get in!” He raced down the hall, and G.M. heard him thud up the stairs.

A moment later, two sets of feet tromped down.

G.M. looked at Mac, drops of water dripping from her yellow raincoat. She shook her head. “Why can’t you just come in the back door like a normal person?” she asked.

Mac grinned and pulled off her hat. “Firefighters have to know how to climb ladders in all kinds of weather!” she explained. “I have to hone my skills!” She unsnapped her coat. “Don’t you just love that word, hone?” she went on happily. “It means, ‘to sharpen,’ you know. I’m sharpening my ladder-climbing skills!”

“I’m speechless,” G.M. said. She sank back down in the big overstuffed chair and picked up the book she’d been reading.

“What are you doing?” Mac asked, turning to Joseph. “I was practicing my handwriting. Miss Binney says I have to hone my handwriting skills too.”

Joseph frowned. “I’m practicing the piano,” he answered. “It’s really hard!”

“How come you want to learn to play the piano anyway?” Mac asked.

“Because I’m going to be the piano player in a worship band someday!” Joseph replied. “You know that!”

Mac punched his arm. “Then don’t be so wimpy and complain that it’s hard to learn!” she exclaimed. She stopped, tipped her head, and reconsidered. “Well, maybe wimpy is OK,” she decided. “God can use wimpy people too. Gideon was wimpy. Nobody would have picked him out to lead an army! But he let God use him.”

“I am not wimpy!” Joseph retorted.

“OK! OK!” Mac answered. “I’m just saying.”

“Don’t say it!” Joseph threatened.

Mac giggled. She crossed the room, sat down on the carpet, and leaned back against G.M.’s chair. “You know what I was thinking about before I came over?” she asked. “I read the story of Gideon in my Bible like Pastor Chuck told us to do. And when I got to the part where God told Gideon he still had too many men and He said to send home the ones who knelt down and drank water and keep the men who only dipped up water in their hands—well, I thought maybe the men who only reached down and dipped up water were too old or too fat to kneel down and drink. What if those guys who only dipped up water weren’t the really brave guys? Because if I were a brave soldier going off to fight, I’d want to get a really good drink so I wouldn’t get thirsty right away again! I’d get down and drink a lot!

“And if the guys who only dipped up water were the old ones with arthritis or the fat ones who couldn’t get down to drink, that would mean Gideon’s army was really, truly awfully weak!” Mac finished triumphantly.

Joseph stared at her.

G.M. burst out laughing. She laid her book on her lap. “I never thought of it that way!” she exclaimed. “So you think Gideon’s army ended up consisting of 300 old, out-of-shape men!” She laughed again. “You could be right!” she said. “God certainly has a sense of humor. And if that was the kind of army Gideon ended up with, no one would ever, ever doubt who won the battle!”

“That’s exactly what God says in the Bible!” Mac nearly shouted. “Gideon’s story is in the book of Judges, and in it God tells Gideon something like, ‘I don’t want the Israelites bragging that they saved themselves.’

“Play me the song you’re practicing!” Mac demanded, turning her attention back to Joseph.

“You promise not to laugh at it?” Joseph asked.

“I wouldn’t laugh!” Mac said indignantly.

Joseph turned around on the piano bench and adjusted his book. He slowly picked out the notes to the song.

“Wow!” Mac exclaimed. “That’s really good for only four lessons! Just think how good you’ll sound if you keep letting God use you! Think how good you’ll sound when you’re old and fat!”

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