You are the salt of the earth. – Matthew 5:13
Music filled the car as I drove toward her house: “Susie Q, Susie Q, oh my baby I love you.” It was the hit song of the day, and, since by coincidence I was dating a Susie Q at the time, it was a doubly special, doubly fine tune. It was also the perfect music to have blaring to deliver an equally fine high school graduation gift. I had worked on it for weeks. It had style. It had sentiment. It had above all creative flare. There were no options left for her but to be incredibly impressed. What an exciting time, the kind of day that makes you sing, the pinnacle of days of shopping for just the right item, organizing it ever so precisely, and wrapping it for the perfect, spellbinding effect. The core of the gift was a gold ID bracelet, her name on top, mine on the back, to “remember me always.” But anyone could give an ID bracelet, so I dressed it up with a little creative razzmatazz. Remembering that our first date had included a drive along the Clearwater Causeway and a stop for dinner at Mullet Inn, a restaurant known for the best smoked mullet in the area, I decided that, symbolic of our first event, two fresh ready to cook mullet should accompany the bracelet. They were selected for size and good looks and gently wrapped and packaged in a shoebox with the gold bracelet around the neck of the prettiest fish. Red, green, and yellow rubber fishing worms were added for color and the whole thing was wrapped in the traditional comic section newspaper with a few extra colored rubber worms on top for a bow. It was a masterpiece of gifts, combining the sentiment of our first date meal, the class of a tasteful gold bracelet, and the creative humor that sparked our relationship. Who wouldn’t sing en route to deliver such a prize package?
Nor were my spirits dampened when Susie wasn’t home. I simply presented the gift to her dad with the instructions “Please give it to her as soon as she returns.” Now was it my fault that he instead put it on the dresser in her bedroom? Was it my fault that they left that evening on a two-week vacation, leaving the gift unopened? Was it my fault that on returning they found the unopened gift ripened and had to have all the carpets, all the drapes, and most of their clothes cleaned? I should say not. I had left proper instructions. I had said “please” and “as soon as she returns.” They unfortunately failed to see my side of the story. Sentiment, creativity, even humor went unrecognized, and Susan was banned from my presence.
I even went personally to apologize, but her dad wouldn’t discuss it. When Susie walked me out to my car she suggested that I not return to her house. “Who’d want to come back here. The place smells like dead fish.” We broke up shortly after that. Amid the surface humor I really was sorry. It had seemed like such a fun idea at the time.
I told my church youth sponsor about it the next week. There, of course, was not a solution; it was not a problem to be solved. After listening and laughing, he reminded me of Matthew 5:13 where Jesus said to the disciples, “You are the salt of the earth.” He went on to explain, “The disciples were fishermen, and they packed their fish in salt to keep them fresh and good. Jesus,” he continued, “was reminding them of their place in the world as preservers of that which is good.”
That’s one Bible lesson I’ll never forget. Nor will I ever again eat mullet, or give dead fish, even dressed in gold, as a gift. But I can’t help but laugh every time I hear a music flashback of “Susie Q” on the radio. It still makes me want to sing.
Prayer: Help us, Lord, to take a stand on the side of preserving good and righteousness and love. Amen.