I made an angel. And I have to admit, I am a little proud. It’s out of wood and I had a lot of help. I am indebted to Drew Sumrell for patiently teaching me about his woodworking hobby. I learned about using a lathe and wood turning tools such as a parting tool, roughing gouge, a skew chisel, and a spindle gouge. I learned techniques such as making beads and coves. I learned about finish sanding and friction finishes. I am in awe of woodturners and I love their finished products. Most importantly I learned what a Lathe can do – spin wood, that is either clamped in at both ends or held tightly at one end, at varying speeds so by applying varying sharp tools listed above, you create shapes and curves in the wood. Or sometimes rough divets as I learned! Spin it a little more and apply a sharp instrument and you can easily fix a lot of mistakes.
As I look at my tiny little angel that is woodturning 101 I am sure, it is not lost on me the lessons learned at the lathe. Especially as we enter a new year (so hard to believe). How many times have I looked at events back in 2019 and upon first glance seen the results of what felt like a misplaced chisel, a tool applied too hard or too abruptly causing rough divots and unplanned gouges. How often has life felt like the lathe was spinning too quickly for what needed to be applied or done at the moment causing a higher opportunity for miscalculations and mistakes. How often did a job call for a skew chisel when I mistakenly chose a spindle gouge instead. In other words, we can probably look back on this past year and see the mistakes or the hard patches in the last 12 months and wish they had gone better, or we had said or done something differently.
But as I look ahead at 2020, I am reminded of other lessons learned from the lathe. If the wrong tool has been chosen you pull the tool away from the wood, put it down and pick up a different tool. Apply it carefully and reshape the wood. If you make an unexpected gouge, take a breath, concentrate, and gently reapply the tool to the spinning wood and reshape the wood into the intended cove or bead or angle. Many times, the wood can be reshaped carefully and the project is not lost. Life is far more pliable than we sometimes think it is. The wooden shapes of our hopes, dreams, relationships, goals, can be reshaped and reworked on the spinning lathe until eventually, the shape of the “angel” actually starts to appear.
Make no mistake about it, making an angel is not easy on the block of wood. Maybe the most important step is the finishing at the end. As you hold the sand paper against the wood you feel the heat from the friction and if you are not careful can burn your fingers. Yet because of that friction the rough edges are smoothed out. Same thing with the friction finish, as the cloth spins the wood applying the varnish the wood begins to transform and shine before your eyes. Designs in the wood grain pop out and the inner beauty of the piece of wood in your hands that was not visible before transforms before your very eyes. We all know, applying friction to our lives does not feel good. And yet sometimes that is what it takes to smooth away our rough edges and let our true best selves shine from within.
And sometimes, when you get to a hard part, it takes the strong, sure hands of the expert to grab hold of the tool with you and guide your touch in order to learn how to do the hard parts. And it’s ok to ask for that guiding hand along the way. That’s just another way to learn. People of faith ask for that guiding hand frequently in our prayers. No matter how much we think we know or how much confidence we think we have, none of us is without need of a guiding hand every once in a while.
Oh, and one more lesson. It truly was amazing to see the starting point for making this angel. A chunk of wood that had been cut from a log with the bark still on it was transformed into this smooth and shiny, beautiful angel now hanging on my Christmas Tree. Once again a reminder that our God can make something beautiful out of virtually anything. Transformation is God’s business. So I don’t know about you but I’m ready to lift up the year ahead of us and seek God’s mighty transformation. To trust the Master Woodworker to apply the right speed, the correct tools, and the appropriate amount of friction in order to shape, smooth and shine the rough pieces of my life. Maybe. Just maybe, that might lead to the making of an angel. Or at least a faithful, fruitful servant.
God’s Blessings in 2020!