In the Workshop

A friend once told me an illustration she’d been given about how God’s sovereignty played out in her service.  Wracked by fear of making a mess and not being good enough, she was encouraged by the following…

Its like we’re in the workshop of a master carpenter; we’re sawing and hammering away, nails and sawdust flying everywhere – working really hard.  We suddenly realize we’ve made a mistake or what we’ve been making isn’t really very good and certainly doesn’t measure up to the Master carpenter’s standard.  We’re distraught and feel like a failure, anxious about the mess we’ve made of things.  Then we discover that really its what the Master is doing that really matters – that the work we’re doing is very small in light of what he’s done and so it doesn’t matter if we don’t measure up – he’s done it all already.  Its like a father who has given his child a spare bit of scrap wood to mess about with, just so that they feel loved and feel part of what he’s doing.

I suppose it could be comforting when we feel our efforts for the Kingdom are pitiful or that we’ve made big mistakes in our life choices – its good to know that there’s a Master craftsman who’s really building and who’s getting it right and making it beautiful.

Others I’m guessing would feel much more like what is really in play is the following…

We’re in the workshop of a Master carpenter; we’re sawing and hammering away, nails and sawdust flying everywhere – working really hard. We suddenly realize we’ve made a mistake or what we’ve been making isn’t really very good and certainly doesn’t measure up to the Master carpenter’s standard.  We’re distraught and feel like a failure, anxious about the mess we’ve made of things.  Then we discover that really its what the Master is doing that really matters – that what we need to do is to get out of the way and let him do it.  So we sit back and watch the Master at work, peeking over his shoulder trying not to get in the way, marveling at his skill and whilst there are things he’s doing that we don’t understand, we simply know that in the end his finished work is glorious.

I’ve been thinking about this ‘workshop of life’ 😉 about this Master craftsman and me.  Both the above scenarios mean that the work gets done – in the end there is a pure and beautiful masterpiece on the workshop table and whilst I feel a certain sense of security or comfort of life being that way, both pictures end up leaving me cold.

The second paints a picture of a God who does whatever he wills in order to get the work done, regardless of what we do to get in the way.  Our part is to watch and glory in the craftsmanship.  We have no real part, we’re just tools (or even distractions) in what he’s doing.

The first picture, then is surely better as we get in on the fun – we hammer away and design things and glue stuff…  we’re given a scrap piece of wood to muck about with while God is doing the real work.  Our part is to have a bash and keep ourselves busy, have a go at copying the glory of the craftsmanship while not actually making any impact on it.  We have a part, but it doesn’t matter about how it goes, because really its just a scrap that the Master has thrown at us to muck about with.

The cold feeling these images bring means that really I think there is a third way at work in God’s sovereignty.  Of course, no one image will fully convey it, but I’m thinking that if I’m going to think about such a workshop scenario, it would go much more like this…

We’re in the workshop of a Master carpenter; we’re sawing and hammering away, nails and sawdust flying everywhere – working really hard. We suddenly realize we’ve made a mistake or what we’ve been making isn’t really very good and certainly doesn’t measure up to the Master carpenter’s standard.  We’re distraught and feel like a failure, anxious about the mess we’ve made of things.  Then we discover that really its what the Master is doing that really matters – he is teaching and training and showing and hanging out and inspiring and repairing and (dare I say it…?) marveling and smiling at what we’re making together.

See, I think I really am building something here – and not just mucking around with scrap – it is of great value, it is important… essential even.  I really am making decisions, I’m designing and crafting and shaping life.  I really am doing the work, but I think I might be a master in training with THE Master.  An apprentice, if you will.

I am learning to create and craft at His side.

The bits where I have no clue how to do it, how to make it fit, he’s working on – but always in a way that teaches and trains me and my workmanship in his masterpiece.  The bits where I’ve accidentally gouged a great big chunk out of the wood, or mucked up the design, he transforms into something more beautiful than i could have imagined – showing me what it looks like to heal and refine and redefine.  I can be careless and flippant or meticulous and particular or creative and flamboyant.  Such freedom gives both weight and value to my choices and creates the beauty of true partnership.

This is a frightening concept.

It means that when I have a choice to make – about marriage or about career for example – I cannot sit back with my fingers in my ears and sing ‘Jesus loves me this I know’ and wait til it all works out or til Jesus comes back – whichever comes first.  Rather, I must take steps towards seeing things happen, recognizing that I have a responsibility to bear for my own life; to live life rather than to simply let life happen.  That my choices  (or lack thereof) have consequences carries weight but therefore also worth.

This is an incredible concept.

The biggest part of this freedom is that even when I’ve no effing clue what to do, or how to proceed, or things seem impossible, the Master is there.  Not to take control and do it for me, not to relegate me to the scrap woodpile, but to put his hands on mine and guide me through in a way that not only accomplishes something, but that also means together we create something beautiful.  Something beautiful in me and through me and even for me.   Something beautiful that is part and parcel of this Master’s greatest work of art.

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