By Dan Flynn
A year ago a large cherry tree fell down in the woods behind my house. Typically I would have cut it up for firewood, but I paused and wondered what it would take to make it into lumber. I thought it would be nice to have some cherry furniture from my woods.
Through a friend at Living Water I met Tom, who has a portable sawmill. We cut up my cherry logs into boards which I stacked next to my garage to air dry for a year. In early August I took those boards to my brother, Dave, in eastern Wisconsin and we planed the boards and he made some fine cherry bookshelves.
What I learned is that it took many people and a patient process to finally get to the finished handcrafted product. I admit my excitement at having these bookshelves, but I also saw what I didn’t expect: the tender care of a furniture maker producing a time-consuming product he is proud of.
About the same time as we worked on the cherry bookshelves I read a short article in Christianity Today (July/August 2014 issue), “The Work of Their Hands.” The author describes how we have lost the idea of the “craftsman.” The craftsman took pride in their work so it took time and patience to get to the final product. Until the early 19th century most Americans worked with their hands and were proud of the product they produced.
In 1911, Frederick Winslow Taylor published Principles of Scientific Management. His desire to create an efficient, profit-generating industry led him to suggest a management structure divided into those who were “white-collar” and those who were “blue-collar” workers. This divide was accepted readily as we entered into the industrial age.
Now people were given very prescribed roles which resulted in the loss of “handcrafted” pride. The work of a single craftsman got divided, each doing their own task with little interaction with others. The factory line came into being and Ford Motor Company became very wealthy.
I thought about my cherry bookshelves and the tender care given by my brother to their creation as I thought about my walk with Christ Jesus, our walk with Christ Jesus. You can’t mass produce believers. There is no factory line for believers.
The process of becoming a mature believer in Christ is lifelong, taking baby steps and patience to grow. Growing into a deep relationship with Christ takes a community of people. We simply can’t do it alone.
For book shelves it took a man who owned a sawmill, this man teaching me how to air-dry the wood, a friend letting me use his truck to haul the lumber to Wisconsin, a furniture maker who taught me how to plane a rough board to beautiful lumber, and then him creating the book shelves.
Our six-week sermon series starting Sept. 21 is called “Hand-Crafted Discipleship.” It is a fitting title, since we’re going to explore how God uniquely reaches into our lives. We are handcrafted into a mature faith over a lifetime. It takes baby steps in our faith walk, encouragement by other believers, and the Holy Spirit calling us to step forward.
Ultimately, we become that handcrafted piece of furniture that people so admire. For me, the best example of this has been my grandmother, now in God’s presence. I watched her grow into a deep and humble faith that sustained her through some very difficult times. Her “handcrafted” faith is something I still admire and wish to obtain in my own faith walk.