broken but not crushed

Helping each other live successfully and abundantly in the face of brokenness.

Location: Columbus, Central Ohio, United States

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

From the Workshop...

As I write this blog I am working at a computer neatly tucked into my “dream desk”. Since before I can remember I have wanted a huge, finely crafted, cherry roll top desk. When I was working as a professional cabinetmaker I never had the time to make one for myself – you know, like the cobbler’s kids going barefoot. But a little more than 10 years ago, through a series of good fortunes I won’t bore you with and my wife who knew my dream, I became the owner of this wondrous piece of fine furniture. It weighs well over a hundred pounds and takes “three men and a boy” to move. I simply LOVE my desk!

I was sitting here a few mornings ago, looking at the beauty of the finely cut decorative edges, and the writer/cabinetmaker/philosopher in me thought “I wonder what this desk would say if it could tell it’s own story? I wonder what the parts would say about the whole? And most importantly, would it say anything of value to MY life – or yours?”

Let’s see. The cherry tree might tell of its longevity, of a century or more of good growth and the drought of 1923. It might speak to us about the lover’s initials long since incorporated into the very fiber of it’s existence. And then it would probably talk of its death. Chainsaws cutting it off from life giving roots and stripping it of branches and leaves. Then, while it was still conscious, it would speak of large saws ripping it into pieces, huge planers shaving off what it took a century to grow, and giant sanders creating so much friction and pain that it was beyond words.

The wood planks themselves would speak up next. They would chat with us of strength and structural integrity, of character traits and reliability. And they, too, would talk of saws and planes, but would add the sharpness of drill bits and the shearing and shaving of routers. shapers, and joiners. And finally a discussion would arise about perfect finishes that were made of caustic and deadly chemicals sprayed on - and the fact that after the finish is applied, no one would actually touch the real wood ever again.

Now, the wood made into moldings and cut into decorative edges speaks up about what was lost in the process. Making an edge is as much about taking some wood away as it is about what is left behind. Razor sharp blades whirling at speeds up to 25,000 RPM tear away decades of growth rings and make mountains of sawdust and shavings in the process. Then more sand paper and more caustic chemicals, and finally even more rubbing and friction and stress.

The sawdust would just sigh, knowing that unless it was burned as fuel in the furnace or pressed into manufactured wood, it would be called “waste” and would just be tossed out with the garbage or thrown on a pile to rot.

But the decorative edge itself, only conscious of itself since it is nearly the last thing done, would speak only of beauty and intelligent design. It would talk of ogees and half rounds, of mating ship-laps, eased edges and custom finishes. It might wait longingly for the hundreds of people who will caress its edges and admire its loveliness, and might speak of traditional or modern or Shaker design influences. It cares nothing about structure or strength or time or waste – its only thought is for the magnificent splendor of perfectly finished furniture. Its very existence is the stuff of beauty and excellence.

My friends, God desires to make of each of us a thing of beauty. Oh, I don’t mean superficial “movie star” pretty or artificial particle board with phony plastic wood-grain attractive. Those things are a dime a dozen, and are, frankly, just not worth the investment.

Rather, God sometimes allows life to bring us to our knees. We face pain, stress, great loss, and frustration on the way to understanding strength, wisdom, reliability and integrity. Like the wooden plank our character is forged in the fires of adversity and in the cutting and shaping of our struggles.

But that’s the way it works. It’s the struggle that creates the strength that allows us to stand in the face of brokenness. Reliability is more than words or promises, it is proven on the battle fields of time itself. We don’t stand the test of time by wishing it so, we stand by standing – and, as the Bible clearly states in Ephesians 6, when all else fails and there is nothing else we can do, then stand!

And so, I close with three important questions:
1. What beauty can be seen in you? Adversity can make us bitter or better, and the choice is ours and ours alone.

2. Have the fires purified us or have they singed us? Fire can do both – the choice is ours and ours alone.

3. And after all the cutting and sawing and planning and drilling – would you be considered a beautiful, useful, durable piece of furniture or a just pile of sawdust? The choice is ours and ours alone.

Please, choose “beautiful” today!



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