I tend to find myself incredibly busy, which is mostly of my own doing. Some people say I over burden myself, the truth is I just don’t like to have idle hands. One drawback of that is that I don’t always make as much time for some things as I should. I was sitting in my house last week thinking about the areas in my life which I need to focus on more. One thing I don’t devote as much time to as I used to is prayer. Not in general, but I used to just sit and meditate on the word and commune with God in a way that I haven’t lately. I think of myself as a “doer.” I like to do things. Helping people, fixing things, church work, etc. I try to put a lot of time into doing God’s work, but to be honest, as of late I haven’t spent a great deal of time in my quiet place just to listen to God’s voice. Because of events presently in my life, I realized perhaps this is something I need to get back into the habit of doing. I know some who say they can hear His voice clear as day, for me often times this isn’t the case.
Then, as I was thinking, this idea gradually faded into my head. I’ve seen prayer benches sporadically in my time and I decided, for whatever reason, I needed to build one. I enjoy doing small woodworking projects. I’m not great at it, but I try. I like the process of creating things from scratch. This also gave me a good deal of time to listen to my bible app and some worship music. This was something larger than I’m used to building, though. I didn’t know how (or if) it would turn out, but I felt compelled to at least try. So, I did one my least favourite activities, I went to the hardware store.
It had been awhile since I had bought lumber, and I as I walked the isles I drew the conclusion that they must have rearranged the entire store. Trying to find anything was a nightmare. After thirty minutes of being lost, and speaking to three workers (two of whom had no business working in a hardware store) I found what I needed. I was somewhat unsure of how my newest project would work out, so I was trying not to spend a great deal of money. I walked past the
incredibly overpriced expensive lumber, and started sorting through the whitewood they had available.
If you don’t frequently buy lumber, whitewood is the cheapest wood you can buy. It’s also the worst quality. Almost all of the boards are warped, have lots of knots, or chunks ripped off of them. C’est la vie. I filled my cart with roughly what I thought I would need, picked up a few other things, and was on my way. I got home and started working, and working, and working. This project ended up taking several days.
After cutting away all the unsalvageable pieces, I cut all of the boards to the size I would need. I pulled out my draw-knife and shaved down all of the parts that had chunks ripped off of them (whitewood is soft). I painstakingly sanded down all of the roughness of the planks in my hands. With a sore back and a floor littered with sandpaper, I finally removed
all most of the blemishes.
With all of my parts laid out, I started applying stain to the wood to give it a colour that I liked. At the beginning the stain went on too thick and I had to sand it all away and reapply it, effectively doubling my work time. After all of that was dried and it looked roughly the way I wanted, I began applying varnish. After varnish dries you then have to sand it smooth as well. At this point, I don’t want to touch a sander for at least a month. My hands are still vibrating.
Then comes the time to put it all together. I wish I could say everything lined up perfectly and there were no problems, but I can’t. It seems like every board was warped and none of my seams wanted to meet. Fortunately I was able to piece it together enough to make it presentable. Everyone who has seen it says that it looks great, but I can can count at least ten imperfections with it. To me it will never be perfect, but I realized, that’s ok. Nothing will ever be truly perfect. Someone who creates something will always find fault in it. It doesn’t look exactly like I wanted it to, but it’s flaws give it character. The errors found within it tell a story. Regardless of how it looks, or the process it went through getting to where it is, what matters is that it’s finished. It will serve the purpose it was intended to. When I put my hand on it, I can’t help but think it’s beautiful.
Here’s where the profound part of this exercise comes in. On the top of my bench is a book rest. A thin strip of wood roughly half an inch tall. It was the final piece to the project. I had my nail gun in my hand. If you haven’t used a nail gun, when you pull the trigger it releases a large enough burst of air onto a piston to drive a nail through two planks of wood. It’s moderately loud and usually sparks. When I put my gun into place to drive the final nail and pulled the trigger, I heard the familiar pop and, as the sparks flew, that’s when it hit me. ‘This is you.’
This thought is not exclusive to me, but applies to all of those who have put their faith in Christ Jesus. We, by nature, are as undesirable as a warped piece of wood in a hardware store. But, when we die to ourselves our undesirable parts are cut away. Through Him, as we walk our impurities and blemishes are sanded away. We are bathed not in stain and varnish, but in blood, which turns us into what we were always intended to be. Without a doubt, our creator can find faults within us. We will never be perfect. But, once we too are assembled and start to fulfill our purpose, surely when God’s hand rests upon us, He too finds us beautiful.
When I knelt down on my bench for this first time, the boards creaked under me. I placed my elbows on the top and the body swayed a little from the unevenness of the boards. And, when I joined my hands together, I felt that sense of comunion that I have been to busy to pay attention to. One of my favourite sayings is ‘If you don’t feel close to God anymore, God isn’t the one who moved.’ That thought resonated with me for while and I realized, if you can’t hear God’s voice, you probably aren’t listening.