Sticks. That’s really all they were.
Whether unused lumber from a construction site or broken branches from a tree, they were discarded scraps of wood deemed unfit for use.
Nothing but waste. Refuse. Junk. Fuel to be thrown in the fire.
That’s what most people thought.
But not Luther.
He would pick up an old piece of wood and see what no one else could.
- A bird with intricate feathers in magnificent blue hues.
- A bright red cardinal with startling black eyes.
- A family of owls peeping out from their secret nests in the knots of an old tree.
- An old grey mule lazily grazing on sweet grass.
- A couple of quail ready to take flight.
Where others saw nothing left, Luther saw something more.
Something deeper. Something worth patiently and deliberately uncovering.
The old master carpenter could construct a house from the foundation to the rafters. He could also coax something unexpected out of useless blocks of timber.
He would turn the scrap wood in his hand in deep concentration until he saw what was hidden inside. Only then would he would open his finely-honed pocket knife to make the first cut.
Slowly, painstakingly he would carve–whittlin’ is what he called it–until the creature inside the stick began to emerge.
When he was finished, scraps of wood had become works of art.
My siblings and I own those treasures…because to us Luther was Grandpa.
Whenever I look at his handiwork I am reminded of another project in process.
Fifty-five years ago, the Master Craftsman looked at a hunk of carbon release onto this planet at the foot of the California redwoods and somehow decided something beautiful lay hidden inside.
He then gently picked up my life and carefully began His work.
The first cuts were made so early I can only remember them with the help of those who knew me then. The deeper work that has been required over the ensuing years is vivid–sometimes stark and searing–in my memory.
The process has never been pretty. It has more often been painful.
Lots of scrap and junk had to be carved away. There have been many times when onlookers observing this emerging life have doubted whether beauty and meaning could really be found.
Honestly, I have wondered the same myself. This ongoing process of me becoming what He has always seen is fraught with doubt and laced with despair.
What did He see hidden in me? Can it ever be revealed? I get all wrapped up in the stuff that’s being lost; worried about how much goes to waste.
But what counts to Him is not the stump but what’s inside it. So he keeps carving.
The secret I am beginning to understand in this metamorphosis is simply:
He sees the beauty in me because He put it there. It was in His heart before it was in mine.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)
The truth is He is utterly committed to carving and crafting until His beauty fully emerges in me and finally reflects the glory of its Designer and Finisher.
“…he who began a good work in (me) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
I wish others could see what He sees. For that matter, I wish I could too. Stuff that needs to go doesn’t easily let go. Sometimes there are glimpses to those I love and even hints in my own heart. For the most part what I see is lots of sawdust and shavings.
The deep comfort I have found in all of this is that to be cut and shaped until the hidden beauty is uncovered means I am being held by Him.
When I feel the sting of the blade I also feel the touch of His hand.
To cling to this reality when I am being whittled into shape I must have two things.
- Trust–vulnerable enough to remain in His hands through it all.
- Faith–confident enough to believe what He reveals will be worth it all.
So daily I surrender to the loving touch of the only One who has the vision, skill, desire and love to work in my life until the beauty of His image is exposed. My prayer constantly remains: “May he work in (me) what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ.”(Hebrews 13:21b)
One final thought…and this part stuns me. God and I aren’t the only ones waiting to see what I will become. The whole wide world is actually standing on tiptoe in anticipation of the big reveal.
“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.”(Romans 8:19)
Not in Heaven, NOW!
Improbable as it may seem, all of creation throbs with expectation for the Father to reveal in each of His children right here in the rub and reality of life as it is…
…His hidden beauty.