Barrel Nuts

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen it happened, I was up to my elbows in dowels, washers, screwdrivers, panels — and barrel nuts. I had spent most of the day building pre-fab furniture my mom had bought for her new Portland apartment. It is mostly enjoyable work. The instructions are clear and seldom incomplete.

The best part is that, once a person has assembled a couple of pieces, each successive piece goes together a little more quickly and easily. 

The event in question happened around 6 p.m. After a quick dinner, I cut open the next box in the stack and began assembling a nightstand. I had classic rock music playing on the radio. Mom was keeping me company and handing me parts as I went. Then it began to unfold.

“Hey, there are only three of these plastic pieces,” Mom said. She was looking down at three barrel nuts in the palm of her hand. The nightstand had come with 12 barrel nuts and I had used eight of them already. Mom had helped me enough on previous pieces to know she should have an even number left. But she didn’t. I looked on the floor all around the area where we were working, but I couldn’t find the missing barrel nut anywhere.

HardwareI was mildly concerned, which is a departure from the norm. Normally, I would be coming half unglued, scouring the house from top to bottom, putting the work aside until I found the nut. But this evening, for some reason, I thought, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I still don’t know why I was so unconcerned. After all, this wasn’t an item that could be easily replaced. I have never seen a barrel nut in a hardware store. I doubt there are standard sizes. Replacing the nut would at best involve a trip of several miles to the Ikea store where the furniture had come from.

Mom handed me the three barrel nuts and I screwed one into place. Then I went to grab the next one.

I stopped and stared. There were still three in my hand. A strange, surreal feeling washed over me. I looked dumbly up at Mom.

“What?” she said.

I didn’t answer. Instead, I looked down at the nightstand I was building to make sure. The obvious explanation was that I hadn’t used any of the three nuts Mom had just handed me. But there it was, right where I had installed it a second ago. I remembered being at that exact spot precisely when Mom told me about having only three barrel nuts left. I shook my head. Then I counted the total number of barrel nuts I had used so far on the nightstand — nine. I had just counted them a moment before Mom handed me the three nuts, and the number had been eight. That meant I had used one of the three barrel nuts, and yet there were still three left. 

This was too weird for words. I was looking at the proof. Somehow, an extra nut had materialized when I wasn’t watching.

I looked down at the three barrel nuts again, then up at Mom.

“What?” she said again, chuckling.

“You know how a minute ago, we were short one barrel nut?” I said. Mom nodded. “Well, we’re not anymore.” And I told her everything.

She just looked at me and smiled. I saw amusement in her face. I probably looked like an actor who has forgotten his lines. I didn’t know what to do with myself.

“God did this,” I declared.

snakeoilDisclaimer #1: I don’t like to make statements like this. It’s not that I don’t want to give God credit. It’s that for every honest-to-goodness miracle, there are probably thousands of others claimed improperly by: 1) charlatans looking for access to our wallets, 2) demagogues trying to increase their sphere of influence, 3) excitable people and 4) jerks.

That last is a joke. But seriously, there may be more reports of miracles every week than there are facelifts and breast augmentations in Hollywood. Because of this, when I speak of bennyhinnone, I start to feel like I should be blubbering at a Benny Hinn crusade while Benny urges his television audience to give a faith gift of $1000. By the way, in televangelist parlance, “faith gift” means giving more than you can afford, trusting that God will plunk an extra wad of cash into your bank account before your mortgage comes due. I’m not sure, but I think Proverbs tells us to live within our means. But I digress.

Now, the reader may have other ideas about what happened that evening. But that’s the cool thing about having your own blog. I get to say what went down. And this is only fitting, since it happened to me. And, after having eliminated every other possible explanation for what had happened, I was left with one: God.

“We didn’t even ask him,” I marveled.

Mom, who took this display of raw supernatural power in stride, just smiled and said, “I think God may be rewarding you for helping that guy out at Fred Meyer.”

Disclaimer #2: I don’t like talking about “noble” things I have done because 1) it is terribly bad form and 2) Scripture warns that talking about your acts of kindness will cause you to forfeit your heavenly reward for them (Matt. 6:2).

So suffice it to say that I did something nice for someone at Fred Meyer that afternoon. It wasn’t anything earth-shaking, but on the other hand, I’ve seen some pretty spectacular things happen on occasions when I have gone against my self-centered nature and reached out to others in need. I don’t think it’s just emotionalism. I believe God comes closer to us when we look after those who really need our help. And as anyone who fireworks1has experienced it can testify, the presence of God brings peace and joy like a Fourth-of-July fireworks display. I remember once experiencing joy so intense that it felt like my insides were burning. I remember thinking, “Wow. I didn’t know it was possible to feel this good!” 

This time, it wasn’t simple joy. God actually reached into the temporal realm and changed something material. It occurs to me that God may well do it a lot more than we realize. Maybe he likes to remain anonymous.

At any rate, here’s to peace, joy, and unlimited barrel nuts. All in a day’s work for the Almighty. 

About Douglas Abbott

I am a freelance writer by trade, philosopher and comedian by accident of birth. I am an assiduous observer of humanity and endlessly fascinated with people, the common elements that make us human, what motivates people and the fingerprint of God in all of us. I enjoy exploring the universe in my search for meaning, beauty and friendship. My writing is an extension of all these things and something I did for fun long before I ever got paid. My hope is that the reader will find in this portfolio a pleasing and inspiring literary hodgepodge. Good reading!
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2 Responses to Barrel Nuts

  1. Anne says:

    Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Terrific to serve a God who is so huge and does such super-amazing things but is interested enough in the tiny details of our lives to supply a missing barrel nut. And do it in a way that you would notice and have an extra surge of enjoying Him. He could, of course, have supplied the nut before you noticed it was missing. Glad He didn´t.

  2. Douglas Abbott says:

    Me too, Anne!

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