Hands dripping, I reached for a paper towel, then stopped, surprised. How refreshing! This wasn’t one of those blowers that practically lifts the building off the ground, the ones that sound like a jet plane accelerating down a runway, scaring kids and adults alike. And it wasn’t one of those with the big silver button that weakly emits lukewarm air in which you rub and turn your hands for a minute before you give up and wipe them dry on your jeans. Nor was it the big plastic box with a sensor that only works about half the time, eliciting contortions and frantic waving and requiring you to team up with strangers to try to outsmart it, only to finally be presented with a paper towel about half the size of what you needed in the first place. (The good news is it takes so long to get that kind to work that, by the time you give up, your hands have very nearly dried on their own.) Nor was it a catawampus, skewed, rusted, broken, or hanging-from-one-screw paper towel dispenser. No, I was looking at the most humble, pure, old-fashioned thing: a shiny white metal box with a nondescript crank handle on the side. With minimal effort, the towel rolled out, smoothly, as long or as short as I wanted. The roll was even full. I smiled fondly at the neat, immaculate form dutifully hanging on the wall, doing its simple job very well. Exactly what was needed, at exactly the right time, with just the right amount of effort and result.
I attended a meeting recently at which a man opened with prayer and then asked us to join him in singing a worship song. There were eight of us in the room, and the others were all people whose faith guides their lives. The song was beautiful; it brought goosebumps to my arms and tears to my eyes. The harmony was inspired, the song anointed, the emotions genuine, the mood intimate and lovely. The scene was more intensely spiritual than anything else I’ve experienced in a long time, including church services with hundreds of people. Don’t get me wrong; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with those services. I love them. They’ve been very good, and the speakers have been anointed, and I’ve felt God there, too. But there was just something special about this moment. It was pared down to the basics. It was real, genuine, true. No complicated music, no special clothes required, no distractions or interruptions or schedules or plans. Nothing but us and our God. Nothing else was needed.
The very fact that it caught me off guard tells me I’ve put my relationship with God on the back burner. These moments are available to us all the time. No iPod required with just the right music downloaded; no best-selling self-help books needed; no choir or worship leader necessary. Just you. And Him. Pure and simple and so, so good. Maybe, at least for me, it’s time to remember what it’s all about. To go back to the basics, to return to what is simple — and what, without fail, always works.