By my own confession, I’ve never been much of a handy-man.
If given the choice, I’d much rather pay someone to fix — well, whatever really — because I’ve found that I rarely know how to identify the problem, how to get to the problem, what to do when (or if) I find the problem, or how to actually fix the problem if I’m able make it that far into the process.
And that’s just fixing stuff that’s already assembled and previously working.
When it comes to making things — from scratch — I’m most definitely all for just purchasing it new. Why settle for something sub-standard if you can get it perfect right out of the box?
The truth is that I’m not necessarily opposed to tinkering around, fixing, and creating things — if given the time and space necessary to do so — but with a wife and five small children, I assumed I wouldn’t have said time and space until about the time I retired.
My wife, however, thinks otherwise.
She believes in me — and that’s awesome.
And she’s always got a project cooking in her mind.
Actually, she usually has projects cooking on all six burners — and occasionally she likes to draw me into her creative experiments.
Well, over the past few weeks she’s asked me to make her a couple of benches to go with our kitchen table, as well as a couple sets of cubbies for all of our kids shoes and school items.
Although I approached the first project somewhat sheepishly, I found that I really enjoyed the work once I got into it. And beyond that, I was awakened to one of the secrets of Jesus and his life growing up as the son of a carpenter.
Without a doubt, Jesus spent much of his growing up years (when He wasn’t off stirring up trouble in local synagogues) watching Joseph build things — and eventually, helping out around the shop.
The secret I was awakened to is really more of a gift than a secret. The gift is simply seeing a project from beginning to its completed state.
Being able to start with a pile of wood (or fabric, or clay, or a blank canvas), spend some time working intently on it, and then see a finished project.
It sounds simple enough.
But given the nature of our work — walking alongside college students and encouraging them in their faith journey — we are lucky if we are able to observe noticeable change in them during the brief time we get to walk with them.
Each student is a work in progress when they enter into our lives — and there is undoubtedly so much more growth and change that happens after they leave us.
Then you add to that factor that while there are things we can do to help promote the spiritual growth and formation of an individual — we’re only one of three key elements within the working formula. Each student plays an important role in the process — doing work that only they can do. And then there’s God, the author of formation and transformation in all of us — who does things in His time and His ways.
So if you’re involved with this kind of spiritually forming work for very long, it can become easy to get disheartened by what feels like a lack of noticeable change in students. What is all of our hard work and investments producing?
Well, we can’t say for certain. But we can trust that God is at work in our midst — working both in us and through us. And we can trust that as each student strives to live faithfully, with an openness to God, that growth and change will happen — in God’s time.
And my big epiphany over these past few weeks is simply that by having some sort of hobby in which we can more regularly see things from their natural beginning to a completed state — we might find ourselves a little less consumed with noticeable results and a lot more aware that we are simply a small part of a much bigger process.
A couple of nails in the wood, a few stitches in the fabric, a couple of spins on the potter’s wheel, or a handful of strokes on the canvas — all a part of a team effort that includes God, each student, and the great cloud of witnesses that have, are, or will someday spend time, energy, and prayerful effort investing in the life of that student.
The right kind of hobby has the potential to regularly remind us (on a much smaller scale) of our role within a much larger process.
And that kind of reminder might be the kind of saving grace we need — serving in a field in which noticeable results can be hard to come by.
What do you think?
How might something as simple as consistently engaging in a hobby that gets you working concretely with something like wood, fabric, clay, paint (or something else), provide you with new insight and perspective — such that you (and your ministry) benefit at a multitude of levels?
Can you see it? Have you experienced this for yourself in some way already?
Please take a moment to share your thoughts and insights in the comment section below.