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The Pen that doesn’t write

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I’m somewhat of a genetic weirdo. I’m a twin. The hair on my head is dark brown, but my beard is red. I’m also left-handed.

It’s frustrating to be left-handed in a right-handed world. Scissors never cut right. When you hold a measuring cup in your left hand, you’re stuck using the metric system. When you put a tape measure in your left hand, the numbers are upside down. Remember those desks in school that had the writing surface attached to the chair? The arm rest was always on the right side, which meant lefties had to suspend their elbow in the air all day long.


Ink doesn’t flow out of a pen well when you use it with your left hand. When you’re right-handed, you pull the pen towards your hand as you write across the page, and everything flows in a smooth and easy fashion. But, when you’re left-handed, you push the pen away from your hand as you write, making the pen more likely to skip across the page. Also, your movements aren’t as fluid because, to keep from smearing the ink with your palm, you have to either float your hand over the page or contort your arm and approach each line from the top instead of the side. All of this affects the ink’s flow and makes writing more difficult.

For these frustrating reasons, I absolutely cannot stand a pen that doesn’t write. If I pick up a pen and it doesn’t write easily and readily, it goes in the trash. I’m not keeping it around. I’m not hoping it will write for me later. It’s gone.

This type of consternation makes me think about Jesus. After all, He had a lot to say about things that didn’t do what they were supposed to do. Branches that didn’t stay on the vine (Jn. 15:5-6), salt that didn’t keep its taste (Mt. 5:13), trees that couldn’t produce good fruit (Mt. 3:10) – it didn’t go very well for any of those things.

Sometimes, I wonder how well it’s going for me. How often do I frustrate God when He tries to use me? How many times has He been ready to write, but I wouldn’t let the ink flow readily? How often has He desired to see me serve my purpose in the world, but all I could do was skip across and smear the page?

We’re all pens in the hand of a prolific writer. Every time He nudges us to introduce ourselves to strangers, every time someone asks us for prayer, every chance we have to help someone in need or patiently explain our faith, this is the author of all things picking us up and preparing to write. How often do we let Him down?


He’s the gardener who convinces the master to spare the barren fig tree. “Sir, leave it for this year also,” He says, “and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not, then you can cut it down.” (Lk. 13:6-9)

We can imagine the master replying, “So be it.” He won’t dispense with us right away, but He also won’t wait forever. He will only forbear a fruitless tree for a year, and then that tree is coming down.

This lends some urgency to our growth as Jesus’ followers – now is the time to bear great fruit. Through the sacraments, prayer and His inspired Word, He cultivates the ground of your heart, enriching it and preparing it for growth. All that is left is to consent to be His instrument. Say yes to the (left- handed?) Author of all things. Jesus is ready and waiting to write a masterpiece with you.

Nicholas Hardesty is the associate director of Adult Evangelization and RCIA for the Center for the New Evangelization. | [email protected]

This article appeared in the April 2022 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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