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Bread & Stone

By Russell McKinney

Mitchell CountyRussell McKinney Mitchell County Roan Mountain Baptist Church

Bread & Stone

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” (Matthew 7:7-9, N.K.J.V.)

One writer has said, “The Lord’s answers to our prayers are infinitely perfect, and eternity will show that often when we were asking for a stone that looked like bread, He was giving us bread that looked like stone.” I, for one, know what it’s like to ask for some version of “bread” in prayer only to have God send an answer that seemed to be some version of “stone.” Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you about it.

At some point during Tonya’s pregnancy with our first child, Ryan, it dawned on me that someone was going to have to babysit the kid. At that time, Tonya was teaching middle school and her income was necessary for us to pay our bills. So, either she was going to have to quit her job and become a full-time mother, which would also have meant selling our house and downsizing, or some other arrangements would have to be made. But neither one of our mothers could help out because both were still working at the time, and we couldn’t afford to pay a babysitter, either.

And so, we put our house on the market for a reasonable price and I began praying that God would send us a buyer. I thought, “If we can sell and get this mortgage off us, Tonya can resign from teaching and we can buy a smaller house that we can afford on my pastor’s income. Even if we don’t buy a smaller house, maybe God will send me to a church that offers a parsonage as a part of their salary package.” Either solution made sense to me, and I devoted a ton of prayer requests to the situation.

However, as the months passed, it became increasingly obvious that God wasn’t going to let us sell our house. Even though we had plenty of people look at it, no one was serious enough to buy it. Then, on June 17th, Ryan was born.

Since school started back on the first of August, we had a window of six weeks or so with Tonya at home with him. After that, the inevitable came to pass as the first day of school rolled around and Tonya headed off to her job. That left you-know-who to step up to the plate and babysit. I was available because we pastors, for whatever it’s worth, have the option of setting our own schedules.

Did I want to take a crash course in tending to the needs of a baby? No. Did I want to become a Mister Mom? Of course not. Was I a little ticked off at God for not letting us sell the house? Yep. You see, in my mind, I had asked for a piece of bread and God had sent a rock. It wasn’t that I didn’t love Ryan. I just thought Tonya would have made an infinitely superior babysitter for him.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I kept Ryan every day, from morning until afternoon, for all the years until he started kindergarten. Tonya took over on weekends and during the summers, but the rest of the time the responsibility was mine. My daily routine consisted of fixing his meals, bathing him, cleaning up his messes, making the beds, tidying up the house, and doing the laundry. If I had any spare time, or if Ryan took a nap, I worked on sermon preparation. Any pastoral visiting I needed to do had to wait until Tonya got home from school. Trust me, all that wasn’t how I would have chosen to carry out my life and ministry during those years. It was, however, the answer God sent.

And do you know what God did a few years later when Tonya became pregnant with our second child, Royce? He kept that same plan in place. So, right on schedule, I served as Royce’s babysitter until he started school, just as I had done for Ryan. I did get a slight reprieve with Royce because he attended preschool for a couple of years before he started kindergarten. Other than that, though, my years of keeping him looked a lot like a rerun of my years keeping Ryan.

Oh, and guess what happened along about the time Royce started school? That’s when a guy called me out of the clear blue and asked if we would be interested in selling our house. I answered, “Yes,” and a few weeks later the papers were signed. I remain convinced that if Tonya and I had had a third child, we wouldn’t have sold that house until I had babysat that child as well!

Well, all of that seems like another lifetime ago now. But you know what? I’ve actually reached a point where I miss my babysitting era. I think about the fact that back then I could still protect the boys from life’s heartbreaks. Surely, friends like Barney, Bear In The Big Blue House, and PB and J Otter meant them no harm. Also, there was such a sweetness to those days, an innocence that children get robbed of, little by little, as they grow up.

Sure, I understand that it’s all a part of the ebb and flow of life. I also understand God wants little boys to mature into fine young men who serve Him in the real world. But don’t blame me for sometimes longing for those simpler years. The fact is, they allowed me to forge an intimate relationship with each of my two sons, a relationship that continues to grow deeper all the time.

I’ve heard more than one pastor bemoan the fact that he missed out on his kid’s childhood because he spent so much time doing church work. As for me, though, I’ve now accumulated enough wisdom to realize God was doing me a loving favor by seeing to it that such a thing didn’t happen to me. There I was, thinking all the time He was being mean by sending me stone, when in reality He was sending me some of the best bread I’ll ever know in this life.

Truth be told, it’s bread I wouldn’t mind tasting again if such a thing was possible. Unfortunately, the best I can do now is catch a whiff of its aroma by looking at pictures or watching old videotapes. That fleeting smell always brings a smile to my face and reminds me again just how wonderful that bread was, and it makes me question how in the world I could ever have classified it as stone.


Russell Mckinney lives in the English Woods area of Spruce Pine and serves as the pastor of Roan Mountain Baptist Church in Bakersville.

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