By Tim Shaffer
I’m not a carpenter. I’m a musician. I have no illusions about my skills with a hammer, drill, or—hit the deck—a nail gun! But I just spent four days last week working on a building project at my parents’ house. My brothers and brothers-in-law hatched a plan to add a garage to our parents’ home. They want our folks to have an easier time using the car in bad weather. While I knew I wouldn’t be much help with the skills needed to draw up plans, order materials, or measure and cut lumber, I could offer my back and arms—the most basic manual labor—and then only with clear instructions and close supervision.
My brother-in-law, Greg, is a master carpenter. He decided each day what I could do to help, and then showed me how to do it. Like I said, I have no illusions about my skills at a building site. I only do what I’m told. I check with the “boss” several times while I’m working to make sure I’m still doing it right, and I never move on to a new job without waiting for further instructions. I often am embarrassed and apologetic about my lack of carpentry skills when I’m working with Greg. I hate that I have to ask so many questions, and that it takes me twice as long to get things done. But Greg has told me that he’d rather have help from someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing and admits it than deal with a guy who really doesn’t know, but won’t admit it. A guy like that keeps going when he should stop and often ends up making more work by doing things without asking. Some jobs have to be redone or completely undone. He ends up wasting time, material, and even his own sweat!
I also serve another Master Carpenter. He grew up in Nazareth and learned the trade from his dad. After working for my brother-in-law, I’ve been wondering why I have a hard time admitting to the Master Carpenter from Nazareth that I have no carpentry skills. I really need his guidance and instruction to build anything worthwhile with my life. But for some reason, I find that very tough to admit. It’s difficult to wait for the Master Carpenter’s direction. And sometimes, I just don’t like his job assignments for the day or I think I know better how it should be done.
What is it that makes it so simple for me to submit to my brother-in-law’s authority on a construction site—even when the job he gives me is nothing more than moving a stack of two-by-fours from this corner to that? And why is it so difficult for me to submit to the Carpenter from Nazareth—even when the job is simple and straightforward?
I can think of several reasons for my attitude when I’m working for Greg:
I respect his knowledge and ability as a carpenter and construction foreman.
I know he drew up the plans for this project and he sees the big picture.
I know that on my own, I couldn’t begin to get that garage built with straight walls and a sturdy roof.
I don’t want to hurt others or myself by using tools I don’t know how to handle—like the nail gun!
Finally, and probably most important, I enjoy hanging out with my brother-in-law. I don’t want to annoy him or disappoint him by not following orders on the job site.
I see a progression in my attitude working for Greg—a breaking down of my pride. First, I recognized his knowledge and authority. Then I acknowledged my ignorance and need for help to do things right. And finally, I admitted my need for a friend who appreciates me and accepts me for who I am. I progressed from the brain to the heart. From a pretty obvious acceptance of the facts: Greg knows much more than I do about building a garage and I don’t want to mess it up; to the point where I finally admitted: I just want to hang out, be a part, have a buddy, have value.
Can you accept that the Master Carpenter from Nazareth has a good reason for His work in your life? Do you realize he drew up his plans for you before you were born? Are you willing to admit you just don’t have the know-how to build a life on your own that won’t bend and twist and collapse in the next storm? Do you want a friend, the best friend you’ll ever have, to teach you how to build your life His way? The Master Carpenter tells us: “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:14-15.
Is there a wall to be knocked down in your life, or a new foundation to be laid? Let the Master Carpenter show you how to do it right. He’s your best friend, and His work in you will be the masterpiece He is delighted to present to His Father.
Tim Shaffer is a professional bassist and teacher in the Chicago area. He and his wife, Lynn, are celebrating 25 years of marriage this year. They both enjoy reading, gardening, traveling, and mentoring young people. For many years Tim has also led a group in his church for men struggling with addictions.