Wednesday, June 17, 2009
“But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)
I don’t really know how to make anything. But I have a pretty good imagination for creativity. I look around my garage / workshop at whatever might be laying around, then try to visualize what it is I find might become. Then I just kind of “invent” as I go along.
So it was with the pencil holder project. I began to scrounge around the basement workshop and noticed a scrap piece of wood poking out from under a pile of cut-offs and sawdust.
I almost passed it over…but, there was something there. In my mind’s eye, a form began to take shape. I reached down, picked up the scrap, and just examined it for awhile. Once again, in my imagination I saw potential and beauty.
So, I affixed the scrap wood into a wood lathe and began the process of transformation with sharp blades, hard steel files, and rough sandpaper. I scraped, carved, chiseled, filed, and sanded away all the unwanted material in order to find the beauty I’d ultimately determined was hidden behind the ragged exterior of splintered and broken wood.
God has found many an individual bowed, split, broken, cut down, and thrown out as useless scrap under the sawdust of sin of a fallen world. To anyone else who looks upon them- and to many who look upon themselves- one sees nothing but a hard, dirty, splintered shell having no purpose, nothing of any attraction, something worthy only to be discarded. However, surrendered to the Master Craftsman, it is amazing how different what He sees within and how He draws out, transforms, and reveals what He knows is hidden within every one of us. He knows because He is who originally made us.
The piece of scrap is tightly bound in the grip of lathe. A flip of the switch and the chunk of wood becomes a spinning blur. The wood loudly protests and, as the first blades make contact with the uneven surfaces, it shakes the whole lathe as if trying to free itself from the cutting blade and the fixtures gripping it tightly. Big chunks of old splintered wood came away by the blade in my hand.
Once an individual is surrendered into the hands of the Divine, the circumstances of life, new relationships, His Spirit, and His Word become the blades that begin the transformation process.
The blades are sometimes personal affliction, financial adversity, unexpected hardship, persecution and ridicule, tragedy, health and personal crises, set-backs, and all manner of discouraging and despair-ridden events. The transformation is rarely without pain or suffering because the useless and ugly must be taken away; and is always hard because the change in direction is in opposition to the natural flow of life.
The wooden scrap spinning in the lathe almost immediately begins to take on a new look. The old, weathered, stained, and splintered appearance goes away as new-looking wood becomes the new look. I have a specific purpose for this piece of wood and so I have blades specific to the shape and form that my creation will take. There are straight blades and curved blades. There are blades for cutting shallow and blades for cutting deeply. There are pointed blades and angled blades. Each blade has a specific intent and purpose in order to bring about a certain result in my design. No two projects are ever the same, so the order and the way I use these blades against the wood is never exactly the same.
The individual surrendered into the hands of the Creator also takes on a new look. God has a purpose and a design, so He wields His tools of transformation accordingly and His creation slowly takes on the shape necessary to serve that purpose.
Now the hardest part of my lathe project was cleaning out the wood from the inside. This had to be done skillfully and gently. Too much pressure and the whole thing might just split and break apart on the spinning lathe. But, unless I was able to take out the unnecessary wood from inside, the vessel I was creating would be useless to my purpose and design. Shaping the outside took an hour or so. Cleaning and reshaping the inside took much, much longer, and required patience, perseverance, and gentleness.
In the hands of God, the individual being prepared as a vessel of service also needs to be emptied before he / she can be filled. Relatively speaking, re-forming the outward appearance is easy and takes almost no time.
Emptying and transforming the inside takes far longer- a lifetime even- and God does so with endless patience, relentless perseverance, and with loving gentle kindness.
I begin to see wood grains, veins of color that before were hidden and invisible under the hard splintery exterior. Then I apply a high grade of wax to the spinning project now almost perfect and ready. It is ready. A pencil holder suitable for my queen!!
I smile as I free it from the lathe. It is good. REALLY good. Now, being a mere human, I only knew that, within that old chunk of scrap wood, I would find a cup. I was incredibly surprised and amazed at how beautiful a cup that God had hidden in that old and weathered chunk of wood.
When we see ourselves or when we see others hard and beaten and scarred and splintery, God sees potential and beauty and perfection. But, unlike the lifeless piece of scrap wood I captured and possessed from the scrap heap, each individual must surrender his or her life to the Lord.
There is within every human being amazing and incredible beauty. But it comes only by His transformation. It takes a lifetime. And it’s called sanctification.
Bruce Curtis- 1998