Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Carpenter

My life has been rather hectic lately as my home goes through many much needed renovations: wood floors, paint, siding, windows, fixing a leaky roof and a leaking basement ... lots of things.  The wood floors, though, have been the most exciting!  They are now covered in a lovely bamboo flooring that turned out to be far more beautiful than anticipated.  As the carpenter Joe worked, I couldn't help but reflect on The Carpenter ...

The house was a mile marker: the start of a new venture in my life.  I had gotten divorced the year before I bought the house and was proud to be "making it on my own."  The house was physical proof that I was moving on, leaving a bad marriage behind me, starting anew.  But, during the past years as I struggled to pay for graduate school, I had let things go around the house.  Now, my home was in need of major changes.

In preparation for the carpenter, I had a lot of basement and closet junk to rummage through and throw out.  I had rented a dumpster into which many of my old things went, along with construction-related refuse.  There was one evening that I found myself in tears, as I relived some old memories and made some self-discoveries.  "This is going to be more than just a house renovation," I thought.

In preparation for The Carpenter, we likewise must go through an inventory process: taking account of what we have done, tossing out what clutters our lives and obscures our vision, and keeping those things that are of true help.   We need to reflect on where we have been -- where we have come from, what we have done and accomplished in our lives, and where are next steps will lead us.  Of course, we must be mindful of what true value is and not substitute what is truly important for what only momentarily entertains and distracts us from the real journey before us.

My neighbor the carpenter appears bright and early at my door, greeting me with a big smile and an energy of excitement for a new job.  He meticulously carries in the various tools he will need for the job, placing them strategically about the house and even putting a power saw out on the back deck. 

First, there is the removal of the old carpet: a nasty, dusty job.  I'm so glad to be rid of the 15-year-old berber, having had it installed when I first bought the house.  Then, there was the pounding down of loose nails and the laying down of roofing tar paper all over the floors.  It was a dusty, dirty, noisy environment with all my appliances piled in the middle of the living room.  But, knowing nothing about carpentry and hardwood floors, I found it interesting.

One evening, I watched as Joe the carpenter and his assistant struggled to keep the flooring in straight lines as the wood went down the hall into a guest room.  It turns out that the original carpenter of the house had done a lousy job.  Rooms were not square due to an apparent slap dash job to get the house up and on the market as quickly as possible.  The new carpenter used a red chalk line to help see what I would call "true straight" in spite of the crooked walls deceptively indicating otherwise.  Kneeling closely to the floor with his tools, he would pull and let snap the chalk line,  leaving a bright red line that seemed to glow against the background of the black tar paper.  This was his guide as he finished the stretch of flooring out to the end of the guest room wall.

It made me think of The Carpenter: the color of the red chalk calling to mind the red color of Christ's blood as He hung on the Cross as a sacrifice for our sins -- for my sins.  We humans are incapable of keeping the Law, running crooked against its true and straight lines.  It was in kneeling down close to the red line that Joe could better make out the direction he was to follow.  We, likewise, must kneel down and follow closely, ignoring lines poorly laid down by others and, instead, seek true direction that will lead us to walk in straight lines with God.

And, yet, despite our best efforts, our lives become a crooked mess.  Looking at the sharp red chalk line against the black tar paper, I envisioned Christ's blood dripping down his arms as He hung on the Cross.  We cannot keep the Law and are, therefore, condemned by it.  But, because of Christ's Great Sacrifice, the true, straight line of God's law gives way to drops snaking down and around our imperfections, swirling around our failings, covering over our sins and bringing us back into alignment with God.

How wonderful to ponder that God chose to send His son to earth in human form to be adopted by a carpenter -- Joseph -- who passed on the trade to the Son.  Carpenters create, refine, repair, reshape, strengthen -- and, yes, sometimes tear down and start anew.  It is a skill of creation and recreation, repairing and renewing.  How appropriate for Jesus, our Redeemer.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"  (2 Cor. 5:17 NIV)
I reflect on the glaring mistakes made during the construction of my house -- glaring to Joe, but not to me with my untrained eyes.  I think about my "mistakes" and "shoddy construction" -- some glaringly obvious to me, some embarrassingly glaring to others, and some to which I am sadly (mercifully?) oblivious.  Oblivious, that is, until pointed out to me by an Expert.  And I give thanks that His blood covers over and fills in my transgressions ... my sins.

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