The Word as Found in the Garage

Posted by Tom.Blackwood on July 30, 2014

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.
- Colossians 23

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.
- Ecclesiastes 3:10 

Those of you who read this blog know that I do not always live by that particular verse of scripture. I have a tendency to slap-dash a few things, but, thank God, not everything. 

If the verse said "whatever you do that you really like doing" then I would be golden. 

A year or so ago, Kyle Smith came over to the house to build some large outdoor games for his annual pig roast. As we were setting up the table saw for a cut, I whipped out my little pocket ruler and measured to the closest 1/64th of an inch. Now, this was not sophisticated carpentry and the tolerance level could have been looser, but hey, I was going to do it right. My insistence on close measurement drove him nuts. 

I come by it honestly. For the last ten years I have spent Sunday afternoons at my friend Bob's house building custom designed electric guitars. In that work, 1/64 of an inch can be a chasm. Bob is an architect and deals in the exact. We can spend the first half of the day setting up cuts and 30 seconds making the actual cut. 

On the Sunday following Kyle's visit I was telling Bob that a budding young woodworking talent had been over to the house and left knowing I was a crazy old man. Bob just looked up, laughed and guessed, "tolerances?" I said "yep." 

One Christmas, I gave Bob a set of British steel squares with a tolerance level of 1/10,000 of an inch. As I handed him the package on Christmas Eve, I suddenly screamed to myself "What have I done? We'll spend months getting the saw set up." 

I know "pride goeth before a fall" and all that stuff, but some of the instruments we have made are works of art. It was only after thinking about this assignment that it came to me that the things we do with our hands really can be gifts to God. I do not have God-given talent, but I work hard at learning. 

The stretch is keeping in mind that one is doing something as if for God. 

It's not so much the theological lesson in doing something right as it is the psychological lesson, the life lesson. If you are going to do it, do it right for your own satisfaction and peace of mind. I think that is the gift to God, the peace. It is a moment of joy in a life that is the gift from God. 

A couple of weeks ago, I was part of the Outside the Walls group working at Vickery Meadow Learning Center. I worked with the yard crew, headed by Steve Clary. We were weeding the kids' vegetable garden. When I say "weeding," I don't mean pulling the tops off of plants, or chopping them with a hoe, I mean removing the evil things. With Steve, it's plant, roots, stolons, runners, the whole megillah. He put his whole hand to the job. When we finished, it was good. 

So, thanks to Bob and thanks to Steve and thanks to all the others who remind me that finding satisfaction in a task is a holy thing. 

A lot of the things I have built over the years have as much to do with artistry as things that used to hang on our refrigerator had to do with Michelangelo. But, I learned from them, and I continue to improve, and I know God is patient.

I know the things that used to hang on our refrigerator were created with love and were closer to true gifts to God than anything I've done. But, if you think about it, God has a really big refrigerator and creations from all of us are stuck on it with cosmic magnets. 

If the effort is sincere, I know He appreciates it, even if it's not down to the 1/128th of inch.

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