I enjoy working with wood. It’s just a hobby and my tools far exceed my talent, but still, there’s something quite satisfying about the whole process. One of my current projects involves three benches. We have one we use at our table that I made about fifteen years ago and it has proven so versatile over the years that I thought I’d make one for each of our children. These benches (like everything I make), are the epitome of simplicity. They are solid and functional but nothing fancy.
I’m using spruce so I’m able to do quite a bit of the cutting and sanding without power tools. My grandfather was a carpenter and I have one of his crosscut handsaws and it cuts through wood better than any of my power saws. Some of the sanding requires a power sander but I try to do as much as I can the old fashioned way. In my book, there’s something therapeutic about cutting and sanding by hand.
As I’m sanding, I’m working with the grain and I can’t help but notice the variations in it. The lines of the grain are caused by the tree’s growth. Several of the lines are are uniform in distance from each other and that tells me that the tree this board came from had years of slow, steady growth. Then there are some lines that are compressed and irregular in their spacing indicating uneven growth perhaps due to drought or some other condition. Then there are knotholes—places in the wood where a branch grew and was later partially enveloped by the trunk or branch it came from. (That’s why if you look closely at some knotholes you can see their growth rings).Add it all up and whatever piece of wood you’re working with is a unique combination of features reflecting prosperity, adversity, and diversity. But regardless of the blend, you can work with that wood, shaping and fashioning it so that it ends up smooth, the sharp edges rounded, and it looks better than ever. Then you can join it together with other pieces of wood and you have benches, tables, chairs, etc. But it all starts with wood that can be shaped and formed.
Our lives are a lot like the wood I work with. Our stories are unique to be sure, but they are all some combination of prosperity, adversity, and diversity. And all of us are in need of some smoothing out under the caring hand of our Father. The encouraging thing to me is that despite our rough edges, knotholes, and uneven grain, if we’ll yield to His touch, He can make something beautiful and useful out of our lives.
The next time you’re feeling overly sensitive in regard to your shortcomings and flaws, just remember that these things are not the real issue. All that matters is whether or not you will allow God to use your life for His purposes. If your answer is “yes,” then you don’t need to worry, you just need to let Him practice His craft—He’s amazingly accomplished! He’s taken all kinds of people and transformed their lives into something rich, rewarding, and redemptive. He can do the same thing for us. “For we are God’s handiwork,” (Ephesians 2:10).