October 1976

Stuff About Things

Robert F. Turner

How many of you have wrapped a string ball? For a super- duper, start with a small hard rubber center, perhaps a jacks ball. A paper wad will do if you dont have the jacks ball. Then tightly wrap the twine, around and around, slightly rotating the ball with each turn so it does not cross at the same places and create north and south poles. The more tightly and evenly it is wrapped, the better the ball. Then, when proper size is obtained — or you run out of string — the sewing begins. We used a big-eyed needle, waxed the thread with bees wax, and would sometimes have to pull the needle through with a pair of pliers. Sew thoroughly the top third of the wrapping if you expect the ball to hold together.

After several games the sewing begins to break, and the ball grows whiskers. It sings when it is hit hard, and the whiskers slow down its flight. You shave the ball now and then, but soon one side is going to burst out with a beard, and the game is called off. You can spend the afternoon arguing who would have won if the ball had stayed together.

And congregations have some of the characteristics of a string ball. A good one is tightly wrapped about a hard core — resilient enough to take a blow, then spring back into shape. Each wrap is in its place, serving the needs of the whole, and having no desire to be heaped into nobby peaks, forming cliques that make a lop-sided ball. It is well sewn with love for the Lord, and for one another; and when a string breaks an immediate effort is made to sew it back into the ball. Shaving is always a last resort, sadly undertaken; for the members know that although it is sometimes necessary, it represents a breakdown in oneness and may portend the day of the big burst.

But good string balls, and congregations, are not made to decorate the mantle. They are made to be used. The firm, soul-satisfying crack of a ball well hit tells us the ball is performing as it should, serving its purpose. But when the ball, or church, begins to swell, and become soggy — when it becomes whisker laden and no one has enough interest to give it a shave — the end is at hand. The energy of the best hitter is absorbed in the sodden mess, and a home-run swing does well to get one on first. Pretty soon the game will be called and nothing left to do but to argue.