The Shape of Things to Come!

Creating or doing anything mechanically or with tools has always been more than a challenge for me. Over the years I have learned to do a few simple things but no one ever calls me to help with projects requiring these skills.

In the ninth grade I had to take shop class. I’m not even sure if they have this class in schools anymore. I believe its more formal name is, or was, Industrial Arts. Our grade for this class required us to build a piece of furniture. Our teacher provided us with some ideas and options. There were some in the class that were highly skilled and chose to make things like rocking chairs or hutches. The simplest thing to make was a rectangular coffee table, so, that is what I chose.

We had to draw up the plans, measure all of the wood to the right size and then use the proper tools to begin to craft and assemble it. I’m not sure of the exact dimensions of my masterpiece but I’m guessing it was probably in the neighborhood of 3 ½ feet by 2 feet. Your basic rectangular table with squared edges like many coffee tables.

Things were going along smoothly as I got my boards glued together and was ready to begin to plane the edges to get them to the right size and smoothness and ready for putting on the finish.

I got the glued boards into a vice and started planing. I thought everything was going great until I heard my shop teacher behind me utter, “Oh oh. That’s not looking good.” I stepped back in embarrassment as those in close proximity heard his exclamation and all came over to see what I had messed up. He asked me to step back and look at my boards and tell him what I saw. As I looked at my soon to be coffee table I realized that I had planed too much on the long end towards the corner and it was no longer a straight line but a very curved line.  He asked me what I thought we could do and I had no idea. He told me to think about it for a little while and he went and helped another student.

When he came back he asked me again and I still had no idea as I pictured the big red F on my report card. Fortunately for me, he didn’t let me wallow in my failure too long. He said that all we needed to do was to shave the other three corners the very same way and we would then have a rectangular table with curved edges. Wow, what a relief. This did require me to do some more work to make sure that all the edges were shaped just right but when all was said and done I ended up getting an A on my table! It looked different than what I thought it would look like when I started but it was still a very nice table.

I never realized the lesson of that table until just the last couple of years. We often have things go on in our life that seem as though they simply can’t be fixed or repaired.  We often have a tendency to go to the worst-case scenario, just as I did with picturing the big red F. My teacher taught me that with many things that happen in our lives we need to simply step back and try and look at the situation from a different angle.

It’s been four years ago this month (now seven years this past January) since I lost my job. A little over a year later my wife lost her job. We went through an extended period of unemployment. We went through all of our savings. We had to sell our house at the lowest point in a very bad market. Our marriage was tested more than it ever had been during this time. We had to begin our lives over from scratch, with nothing. Everything we had worked for in our lives had been planed away.

After a period of time, going through counseling, being prayed for by many we were able to step back and look at our lives from a different angle. We realized that in spite of what we no longer had we still had more than most people in the world. We had a better understanding of the difference between needs and wants. We have been able to take what was a very challenging situation and make it into a life that is shaped differently than what we thought it would look like but it’s still a very nice life.

A phrase I have coined from these circumstances is, “Never underestimate the value of a crisis.” I would never wish my circumstances, or any challenging times, on anyone else but I have learned that even in the darkest of times good things can be created. We are all shaped by what happens in our lives. If we can learn to step back and view things from a different angle maybe, just maybe, we can see a different outcome than what we see in the dark times.

How have challenging circumstances in your life shaped you? What challenges are you facing today? Are you able to step back and view these challenges from a different angle? How can you begin to courageously shape a new situation out of your difficult circumstances?

Romans 5:3-4

This post originally ran on January 5, 2014.


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