I’ve got a recovering blister on the pad of my left thumb and a couple small cuts on my index finger. On the right hand, some tenderness in the centre of the palm and some roughness to the skin on the side of my index finger.
Well, I picked up a new ‘skill’ to develop at the Greenbelt festival this year. Relatively uninterested in the programme on offer one afternoon I decided I’d take myself a spoon carving workshop. Nestled away in some trees was a big ole truck belonging to the instructor and I gathered with a few other souls to make my first spoon. The picture to the left shows the four stages: the ‘spoon blank’ that we all started with; the rough carved spoon; the sanded spoon; and, the complete and oiled spoon ready for use.
I can’t tell you how proud I am of my spoon! It carries several layers of significance for me. In lots of ways, I’m not a very practical person when it comes to stuff like DIY but I’m certainly much more interested in books, words, poetry, art and those sorts of things, what with me being of introverted persuasion! Whilst there is a certain craft/art to the production of a spoon, its a very different discipline to picking up a knife and a blank piece of wood and forming something, to my mind, beautiful AND useful. I’ve since expanded on this skill to another couple of pieces which are pictured at the bottom of the post.
The process of making these things have been, at one level, painful to my soft hands which are more used to holding pens, but at another level quite deeply therapeutic and spiritually helpful. Starting with a rough piece of wood and making early chunks and hacks until you get a defined shape before some finer cuts and eventually the process of sanding for refinement before the ‘anointing’ with oil speaks to me of the discipleship process.
I guess my reflection on nearly 22 years of following Jesus is that perhaps my life has had most of the LARGE chunks cut away. There have been lots of smaller chips being cast off bit by tiny bit, too: continually it seems. There is some sandpaper-like friction smoothing over some responses, reactions, and learned behaviours. Maybe there’s even been anointing on the way. Basically, ‘holiness’ (pardon the overly religious term) is both the ‘being chosen’ as a piece out of whom something resembling Christ is being made, and also the process of being made and refined. It is a past, present and future reality. I’ve been made holy (set apart), I am being made holy, and I will, ultimately, reach ‘perfection’ in Glory when I’m ‘done’ here.
I guess the challenge is whether I am able to interpret what the ‘knife’ of discipleship or holiness looks like. Sometimes it has been despair, anxiety or depression. Sometimes it has been radical loving care and action from others. Sometimes it has been mental challenge and learning. Sometimes in has been through trouble, persecution, bullying or hardship. Sometimes it has been in the cut and thrust of ‘the battle’ of ministry in both hard and easy places. Sometimes it has been in rubbing against the sharpening iron of another human in constructive discipling relationships. Sometimes it has been self-denial and self-imposed habit-making in order to deal with stubborn ‘knots’ in the path. But most of all, it has been grace!
I see my wood carving like this: somewhere in the piece of wood there is the shape of a thing that just needs to be carved out and refined in order to reveal itself. I’d like to think that deep within all that is currently me is the me that grace is leading towards. I like to think that the Holy Spirit is increasingly revealing something of his creative genius in the honing of all that I am into something that will offer glory to God. Most of the time I still feel like a knotty, gnarly, splintery piece of stick…but God is crafting something that will ultimately reflect his Son in me.
Carving the wood is hard, a bit painful, but ultimately so gratifying. The splinters and blisters are nothing in comparison to the finished result. What are the knives shaping you, good or bad? How welcoming are you of them? What are you becoming? What is being revealed? God is the Master Craftsman…and he is doing just what he needs to do.