There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.
Maybe you’ve seen the illustration? The man is pigeon-toed and knock-kneed, taking an impossibly high step which must have been artistically plotted especially to enhance his crookedness. Everything, up to the spectacles on his nose and the buckle on his hat, is crooked. The bony cat’s tail bends at right angles, and her paw holds the similarly bent tail of the hapless mouse, while her golden eyes gaze at the mouse just as I have seen my cat’s eyes gaze. The crazy house sticks out at all angles from itself, and from its crooked chimney a narrow sheet of smoke like crinkled white paper ascends off the top of the page.
On the opposite page is a serene illustration of Little Tom Tinker mending a pot while his golden dog looks on adoringly, but my eyes are always drawn past it to the crooked man. Not because he is beautiful. He isn’t. But the whole picture is so alive; every angle of the crooked man’s crooked self expresses thorough gladness.
The idea of a crooked man comes heavy with implications of our fallen state in the midst of a fallen world. We, whom God made upright, twisted through seeking sinful schemes, so that all things are awry and we can’t even walk one unbent mile. In light of that, perhaps the gladness of the crooked man seems strange? Oughtn’t he be grieving his state?
But no. The crooked man understands — can’t avoid knowing — his crookedness, and he dances with glee because he also knows grace. You can see it in the illustration: that impossibly high step of his, and, held aloft, the crooked sixpence a gift beyond his earning and expectation.
And I wonder: how many celebrations have I missed because I am quick to see “crooked” and slow to see “sixpence”? How many times have I neglected to dance because I am too busy worrying about the crookedness of my legs? And all along the way, the stiles strewn with grace; however crooked the miles seem, the promise that things shall be unbent when the miles are behind me. No wonder the crooked man is glad.
Teach me to see.
©2012 by Stacy Nott