After every NarroWay show, the cast children come up to the tech area, where we are, and pick out one small piece of candy as a reward.
If we perform two shows, they get two candies.
Over the years this piece of candy has come to represent way more than a sweet treat. It has become an edible trophy for a job-well-done.
Rebecca has become a master at making candy a motivator.
Example: “If you help pick up the trash, you get to be first in line for candy.” Or, “If you do a super good job watching Miss Birdie tonight, you get two candies.”
Rebecca has transformed many a child’s acting abilities right before my eyes using her magical tub of candy. I’ve seen her go by a bawling youngster and simply say: “Cry-babies don’t get candy,” and, miraculously, their hurt goes away.
But this is the story of Ryan and his candy.
Ryan is a five-year-old teddy-bear-of-a-boy, snuggly and full of love. He was playing the part of Shorty in The Real Christmas Story.
In rehearsals, Ryan was having difficulties focusing and implementing my corrections ... until I discovered his weakness for ... CANDY!
So I executed a plan whereby to bribe him with Skittles.
When he corrected a mistake, he earned one skittle. Not one pack! One little skittle!
Well, I had to ration to avoid sugar-overload!
Many times Ryan arrived earlier than the rest to rehearse. After that, he still had to go through the three-hour full cast rehearsal.
That’s a lot to expect from a little boy, so I gave him extra Skittles when he worked really hard.
One night, after rehearsal, the kids lined up to get their sugar fix. All the children had worked hard that night but I overheard Ryan in full negotiations with Rebecca.
Ryan: “Pwese, Miff Webeka, I work so hard. Can I have two pieces of candy?”
Rebecca: “But Ryan, look at all your little friends in this line. They ALL worked so hard. Everyone gets one piece of candy tonight.”
Ryan: “But I play Shorty.”
Rebecca: “And they don’t even have a special part and they worked hard. You got a special part.”
Ryan: “So can I have two candies?”
Rebecca: “No, little buddy. You got extra candy when you were learning but now you are a big boy and you get the same as all your little friends.”
Ryan: “But can I have two candies.”
Rebecca: “Stand to the side, Ryan. All your friends are waiting to get their candy.”
Ryan stood politely at the tech door while all the children took their one candy.
After all the children were gone, Rebecca knelt in front of Ryan, took his chubby little hands, and said, “Ryan, you did work hard tonight but so did the other children. You are so special and so are they. Now, pick out your one piece of candy, just like all your friends.”
Ryan slowly sifted through the candies to find the perfect piece.
Then Rebecca said ...
“Ryan, I can’t give you an extra candy because you worked harder, but I can give you extra just because I love you soooooo much.”
That little man’s face lit up like a beacon. He grabbed that second candy, hugged Rebecca, thanked her and happily bounced down the steps!
But that’s NOT how the story ends.
Fifteen ... Twenty minutes passed.
I talked to several cast members and Matt was the last one. As I talked to Matt I assumed it was his small child politely waiting beside him. I thought it was odd for a child to stand so quietly for so long but didn’t pay much attention.
When the conversation ended with Matt, the child remained.
But it wasn’t Matt’s child standing there. It was Ryan.
I was totally surprised that he had been standing quietly all that long time!
Ryan’s beautiful little face was beaming as he proudly held up that second piece of candy for which he had pleaded.
“Miff Webecka, I want you to have this piece of candy because YOU worked so hard!”
Astonished, I said, “No, sweet child! I gave it to you. You wanted it so much! It is yours.”
Ryan: “No. I give it to you, because YOU work so hard.”
Keep in mind, every blasted piece of candy in the tub was mine if I wanted it. I said: “Little buddy, thank you so much, but please keep that piece of candy. It is a special gift to you!”
Ryan: “No, I give it to you because I am so proud of you.”
I froze for a moment, realizing that God was in this moment.
I reached out and took the candy.
This may sound funny, but, I felt like I was taking something holy.
With a face full of smile, he threw his arms around me. “I loves you, Miff Webecka!” Then he took off.
Rebecca cried as she told me what Ryan had done.
This 5-year-old helped me to understand more about God in that moment than a seminary degree and 30+ years in ministry.
THIS! What Ryan did! THIS is how WE are to worship the LORD our GOD.
You see, God owns this whole tub of candy.
We don’t give to God because He needs it. We don’t praise Him because we are required to.
Like the woman who lavishly poured out the extravagant spikenard on Jesus’ feet (John 12:3) ...
Like the one leper out of ten who turned and ran back to Jesus (Luke 17:11-19) ...
Like another little boy who had just enough bread and fishes for lunch but handed the full basket to Jesus ... (John 6:1-14) ...
Just like Ryan.
In the scheme of pearly gates and streets of gold, God isn’t looking for an impressive GIFT. He is looking for something much harder to find – an extraordinary HEART.
No three-points to this chapter - just an unexpected moment in life when God revealed Himself.
And, my friend, that’ll preach.
LET’S BE HONEST: (Applying Truth to Real Life)
1. Brag on the Lord. Write or tell Him some reasons you are proud of Him. (This is NOT a list of things for which you are thankful.)
2. Reflect on your giving to the Lord. Do you give because you “should” or do you give with a face beaming?
3. Reflect upon your worship of the Lord. Are you going through the motions? Or do you go to great lengths to let Him know of your love for him?
4. When have you given to others, disregarding whether or not they needed it worse than you, but “just because?”
5. Giving isn’t convenient. Giving is costly. Genuine giving anticipates NOTHING in return. In what ways, then do you genuinely give?