Forty-three years ago The Redheaded-Wildflower and I bought our first home. Our friends threw us a house warming party. They chipped in and bought us a kettle grill. You’ve seen the kind, those black porcelain-covered, almost egg shaped, three-legged barbecuing wonders. Not a Weber because our crowd was fresh out of college and financially challenged. We affectionately called it our Weber-Wanna-Be. Knock-off Weber or not, little did we know it would become a real treasure.
Fake Weber, Real Friends
The Redheaded-Wildflower and I proudly perched it out back in the dirt, (we had no lawn yet) just to the right of the small concrete block that masqueraded as our back porch, and wasted no time in pressing it into service. Our first official grilling fed those same friends who gave it to us. The guys fired up the coals as the ladies did whatever ladies do during barbecues. Soon smoke rolled out of the vents and streamed into the small window over our kitchen table, where the women were holding court.
A sudden downpour turned the backyard to mud. We gathered round the grill in our rain ponchos and suddenly the Weber-Wanna-Be became a camp fire. We poked the coals, shifted out of the smoke, flipped burgers, and waxed eloquent. Rain dripping from our noses, we started off in safe territory discussing the Denver Broncos. But then delved into the mystery of 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.
It was as if the grill’s heat, smoke, and sizzling burgers called us to authenticity and depth. We thought we were doing what all 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 magically turned hamburgers into hockey pucks. Little did we realize the grill also turned acquaintances into friends.
Smoked Turkey and Smoke Offerings
Later The Redheaded-Wildflower decided to roast the Thanksgiving turkey on the grill. The recipe sounded so easy even I couldn’t ruin it. 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 knock-off. We even hauled it to parks for picnics where the same group friends gathered for Airforce Football. Now we discussed how to handle dangerously premature children, lost jobs, cancer, and rocky marriages. Sometimes it felt like, gathered around the grill, our only hope was that the smoke from our Weber-Wanna-Be, like an Old Testament offering, would carry our combined prayers higher than we could lift them ourselves.
Dented But Not Done
Soon the Weber-Wanna-Be cooked better than it looked. Once it fell out of the back of my truck coming home from one of our picnics. Everyone said the dent gave the lid character. Then the handle broke off. I shaped a new one from wood and bolted it on. We moved, four times in four years, chasing a dream. Each time we set up the dilapidated grill it worked magic on food and relationships.
In Tulsa and all our Colorado friends too far away, we sat out back with new friends and sizzled brats while God dazzled us with a show of lightening 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, lightning forking out of the sky. That fall ee renewed that Scott tradition of our famous barbecued Thanksgiving turkey. Once again, our prayers of thankfulness rose with the blue smoke of our Weber-Wanna-Be.
Slowly, like her owners, the Weber-Wanna-Be began to show its age. It had burnt thousands of burgers, brats, and a steak or two. Bent, dented, rusted, broken wheeled, and listing to one side, we often threatened to replace it. But somehow I’d grown attached to it. Plus we were three-kids-youth-pastor poor.
Then one day, as we prepared for a move back to Colorado, almost twenty-years after that first barbecue, I returned home from work and found the old Weber-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, but long forgotten art project in the trash, to rescue it.
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.
Heart and Treasure
I was shocked at the emotion that rose in my chest and the memories that filled my brain.
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. . .”
The Weber-Wanna-Be became not a “treasure on earth” but smoked out a place in my heart because of the people gathered around it. It’s beautiful how the eternal camps out in the temporary. A knock-off grill became a treasure because God was pleased to use it as a tool in the sanctuary of our ordinary lives.
What is it that God has turned to a treasure in your life?
More on friendship: Loneliness and the Lost Art of Deep Friendships