Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Master Carpenter and Us

I was browsing through a backyard project magazine today, searching for some inspiration for a few winter projects. The thought of creating a bench or other landscape feature is one that I have been toying with for a while, and to create something with my own hands would be not only a challenge, but a testament to my determination to add beauty to my yard without resorting to prefabricated junk from Walmart.

I am not a stupid person, and can understand the complexities of blueprints and diagrams. I did find, however, that I was at a total loss when pondering the diagram for a simple "easy glider" bench. And that is when inspiration hit me.

Many people would love to know the joy of creating something with their own hands, but many also lack the skills or experience needed to complete just tasks. How often do we valiantly struggle with something we do not comprehend, taking it a step at a time, and hoping things will all work out in the end? How often do we complete the project, only to step back and say "that looks like crap" if only because it does not resemble the picture in our minds? Many people do not know how to take the rough wood and transform it into something that will stand the test of time. The instructions are just too confusing.

Our spiritual walk is like this. We are not all master carpenters, and the skills needed are not programmed into us. We certainly are born with the desire to have perfection, and we can appreciate the beauty of the finished project. Yet, sadly, Our work is shoddy, and things fit loosely, and eventually falls apart.

I believe the best step we can take is to enlist the aid of the true Master Carpenter. It all begins with God. He designed the plan, He knows the plan, and He knows what the outcome will be. He will not build our spirituality for us, but He is more than willing to help us master the skills needed to build things for ourselves.

So we, as Christians, surrender to Him, and admit that we can't do this on our own. We beg him to forgive us for our past mistakes, to scrap our old horrendous work, and to bring us into His mercy. And He, being a loving and compassionate God, says to us "Ok."

What now?

God, our Master Carpenter, hands us a, Instruction manual - the Holy Bible. Oh my! It is complex! It is overwhelming! So many steps, and instructions, and insight - all to help us learn proper techniques! Do this, but don't do that! Behave like this, but avoid that! How can we possibly understand this thing? Are we freaking out? Sure thing! But, don't forget, the Master Carpenter is right there with us, hiding an amused smile and reaching out to help.

The first thing we should do is accept the fact that the Blueprints the Master Carpenter provides to us are ours alone. Other people have the same Instruction Manual, but unless we are master carpenters, we should accept that our Blueprints are our own special project, and learn to leave other people alone with theirs. You see, the Master Carpenter is working with them, too. So, forget about others telling you to skip steps 1 - 500, and concentrate on following each step accordingly.

Step one we have already done - enlisting the Master Carpenter as our Only One. There is a side note on this step; the Master Carpenter will make sure that there are other carpenters along the way who can help us grasp basic concepts, should we need to fall back on things we may have forgotten. These carpenters, or our pastors or ministers, are in place to see that we don't fall away from the plan. They will follow the blueprints exactly, as the Master Carpenter as set them, and will not try to confuse you or hand you a different set of plans. In other words, they will not try to place themselves as Master Carpenter, and will be humble enough to accept that they, too, were once novices like you and I.

Step two is the hardest step, but we have already done part of it. We have admitted that our past works were terrible. We must now vow to never fall back on them, even if we think it means saving time. These bad habits are what caused our projects to turn out poorly, and now that we have the Master Carpenter to teach us, we must accept that our old ways were sadly lacking. we can't bring these sins into the workshop with us. We must leave them at the door, and never pick them up again! In return, the Master Carpenter hands us new tools, and teaches us new techniques. We are starting over from scratch, renewed in Him. So, we wash ourselves, a baptism that expresses our commitment to the Master Carpenter. We dedicate ourselves to His purposes and instruction.

Step three - a big step - learn. Study the Instruction Manual. If you look closely, you will see that the Master Carpenter lays things out very simply. If you try to grasp the whole concept at once, you will miss all the little details. If you skim those instructions for things that you think apply only to others, you will miss the fact that all things within the Instruction Manual itself apply to your project, to your blueprint - to your life.

Step four is a wonderful one. This is where you begin your work. It is work done with you and with the Master Carpenter, along with His appointed carpenters lending you aid from time to time. You are at the point where you begin to build. What? Begin to build? What about this step, and that step, and the step everyone tells me I have to do before I begin to build? Hello? Stop reading ahead and follow the Blueprint and Instruction Manual already! You see, each step you take is according to the Master Carpenter's Blueprint for you! His plan is different for each person, even if the Instruction Manuals are the same. Does this confuse you? Think of it this way: the Master Carpenter is with you each step of the way. The Instruction Manual, the Holy Bible, contains all the basics you need to know as you work on your Spiritual project. The Blueprints are the plans God has for you. So, although we all can read the Bible, we don't all share the same Plan that God has for us. Your neighbor may have a comprehension of his own blueprint, but he can't see yours. He can advise you on things, but you should understand that his advice comes from his own familiarity with his personal blueprints. It's best to leave the Master Carpenter in charge of your project, instead of relying upon someone who thinks they know what your blueprint is.

Our project isn't something simple. It starts off simple. Over time, as we gain more and more skill, the Master Carpenter reveals more and more of the Blueprint to us. He unrolls it, bit by bit. Sometimes we take a look at the newest part and freak, because we think it's just too much, too intense. But, don't forget, we have already been working on gaining the skills needed to get through this next step. Nothing on the blueprint is so hard, or so confusing, that it can not be worked out. You have to have faith in the Master Carpenter, and you must trust in Him to get you through this.

Once you have gained enough mastery of the basics, the Master Carpenter might ask you to help someone out. He does not intend for you to build the other person's project! Nor does He want you trying to confuse that person by imposing your own opinion on them concerning their level of skill, their experience, or their current place in the steps. We are not to belittle someone for not having as much skill as us, because we, too, once lacked the skills needed! Instead, the Master Carpenter wants us to share our own trials and errors, to be humble enough to admit that we were just as lost when we first started out. He wants us to share the Instruction Manual with others, and to remind them that the Manual contains the very same Promise that was given to us. He doesn't want us blasting someone for holding the drill wrong, or for not using the sander correctly - teaching that is the job of the Master Carpenter! Rather, he wants us to stand next to that person, and to show them through our own efforts, how using the tool correctly helps us to work on our own project with ease and mastery... perhaps the person will see this example and have a desire to listen to the Master Carpenter. We should also refrain from trying to tell others that they have incorrect Blueprints. Those Blueprints were given to them by the Master Carpenter, and if they are on a certain step on those plans, we may be unaware of what the past steps were or what the future steps will be. Meddling in God's plans for others only causes confusion. We don't know what the future holds for that person. If we harp on them too harshly, they just may walk away from the Master Carpenter altogether - we will have helped to push them away, by trying to impose our will upon them.

Never forget to speak to the Master Carpenter daily. Communication with Him helps keep things positive. Trust in Him to guide you as you work. Remember to thank Him when you make advances in life, when you are blessed. And thank Him for the challenging parts of the Blueprint, also, because it means that you have grown enough to not only undertake that challenge, but also because He knows you are ready for that test of your skill.