After an unexpectedly long amount of time, I finally finished refinishing my future in-laws deck today. It really was a laborious task, one that was much more involved than what I expected. The deck was weathered from the abuse of sun, rain, snow and foot traffic and its overall appearance was more than a little tired. Being the industrious and inspired young son-in-law-to-be that I am, I figured I could lend some handiness and score some points with the In-laws. Plus, it seemed like a fun project to do.
Of course, everything took longer then expected, from buying the wrong deck cleaner and turning the wood white and fuzzy, to realizing that the job was going to require lots of sanding and elbow grease, and of course having other things to take care of, such as a regular job. As I stripped, sanded and dug into the poor aching timber, I reminded myself that it was really going to glow once the final coat of stain was laid on. That along with all the happy comments from my fiancé's mother who was clearly pleased with my progress. I also know this because of all the lunches she made me.
Odd as it might sound, one of the things I love most about these types of projects is the delayed gratification. Each step requires attention to detail and dedication to making it as perfect as possible and the recognition that anything worth doing is going to take awhile. It’s also a real pain, but I think that’s the point. Now that the deck is done, it’s glowing and looks beautiful. The beauty of the wood has been refinished, stained and sealed; and it was totally worth the effort. The funny bit is that in order to get to the fun part of the job (staining and watching it dry while eating a sandwich) you have to endure 99% of the dirty, wet, smelly hard part, so that you can enjoy that glorious 1% of sit-back-in-your-chair-with-your-hands-behind-your-head-and-drink in-the-calm-evening-air, portion. It’s a reminder that many of the things which are beautiful and excellent, are the product of lots of tedious prep work. It’s usually not very exciting or interesting, but it is the foundation to a fantastic end result.
As I was sanding, I couldn’t help but connect these work/project realities to human relationships (I’m a metaphor-minded individual, so bear with me). When it gets right down to it, we’re all weathered wood. We’ve been beaten down by life, and often we’re a little grey with all the abuse we’ve taken. We’ve endured misfortune, heartbreak, and loss; our families have been separated by divorce and death, and we have a selfish propensity to be single-minded in our own self-interest and well being. Underneath our grey and rough-hewn exterior though, Christ created us to be beautiful and glowing. He created us to reflect his own glory and splendor of being. Along with the Spirit, we need each other to sand away the rough spots and put the time in to pay attention to the small details; and this is no small feat.
Consider, what it requires to walk with your loved ones through this life: patience when they are inconsiderate, rude or hyper critical, humility when you are wrong, a willingness to listen to them even when you don’t feel like it, acceptance for who they are in the present moment--as Christ does for us--and many other small acts of love and endurance. In addition to all of this, you also need all of these things and more; you also are rough-hewn wood in need of elbow grease and attention.
Unfortunately, many of us do not have a place or community to offer this kind of love and dedication, and this is one of the reasons I love the support that camp can offer to young people, especially to the ones who come year after year. Here, children and teenagers can find friends and staff members who will meet them where they’re at and learn to walk alongside of them despite the gray that may already be forming; and most importantly, they have an opportunity to learn about the Grace of Christ, which enables us a partner and endows us with the spirit to pursue these actions. The reality is that life is full of adversity and challenge and hard work. It is not a quick or immediate process to grow and be restored. It takes persistence and commitment. Thankfully the Holy Spirit gets down on his knees with us and helps us dig into that old weathered deck, and over time helps us revitalize it to its original beauty and splendor; one that reflects all the beauty and detail that Christ has created us with.