Monday, December 15, 2008 | By: Zachary Bartels

Wow, this is long. Just skip it.

I went to Sears yesterday. As always, I was careful not to enter the store near the creepy mannequins with no eyes, dressed in lingerie or by the sea of appliances, each one seemingly assigned three over-zealous, commissioned salespeople. Instead, I went in under that wonderful sign that says "TOOL TERRITORY."

I was there for one thing: a 40-thread tap to re-thread a bolt. Two bucks; could be purchased in two minutes. But I took the long way around, gawking at all the Craftsman tools. Now, I'm not the handiest guy in the world--I don't even know what some of these things do--but I know that I love to wander and take it all in. It's like a high of some kind. My fellow men can vouch for me here. Every handtool and (especially) every power tool elicits the same excitement/ longing/ wonder that a pinup from the SI Swimsuit Issue elicited when we were twelve. Look at a tool for more than three seconds and our minds begin to fill with all the possibilities of what we could accomplish if we owned it (and all the essential accessories). We go from ignorance to wanting the tool to needing the tool in a matter of a few seconds.

I know what you're thinking. You think I'm going to use this as a springboard to talk about materialism, avarice, etc., etc. Right? Wrong. The draw between a man and a new tool is a sacred thing. I would never drag it through the mud like that. After all, as Owen Wilson said in Meet the Parents, "What got me into carpentry? I guess I'd have to say...Christ."

No, I want to talk about building things. Creating things. I've been doing a little more of that lately. For my birthday in May, my wife and parents got me a table saw (Craftsman, of course) and, shortly thereafter, I purchased a router (ibid). I've yet to churn out a masterpiece. I'd eventually like to craft a large and impressive wardrobe or desk, but for now I'm slowly building up to it (clearly, I'm already crafting masterful puns). I made a couple of rather nice display shelves for my son's dinosaur collection (yeah, he's only six months old...never too early to start a dinosaur collection). They're pretty nice looking shelves. Maybe that's why I went so shelf-crazy, turning an unused doorway in the basement into a pantry, installing shelves for sorting recycling in the kitchen closet, a custom bedside valet with an assigned peg or slot for each of the thirteen items that I bring with me as I leave the house each morning... I've been pretty happy with the stuff I've created. There's something very satisfying about starting with a board or two and then sawing, routing, drilling, and sanding away what you don't want in order to create something you've envisioned.None of the stuff I've made has been perfect, but that's to be expected.

My most recent project was a little pen stand for my study at the church. A month ago, I sketched out the simple little item that I wanted to make. A finished block of wood with a Chi Rho in the middle and two pen flutes, one on either side. Easy. I finished the piece up today and I've got to say I'm very happy with it. Behold:

Again, it's not perfect (some little fuzzies dried in the polyurethane and there's a slight bump where the router slipped on the top edge), but for the most part, it looks exactly as I wanted it to...exactly as I envisioned it.

What's funny is how much went into that simple little piece. First, I had to acquire all the respective parts. My dad gave me the piece of ash for the base. I pulled the two pen flutes off of a hideous purplish pen stand I got on eBay for two bucks. The polyurethane and bolts came from Aco Hardware, and I had the stain left over from a project a few years ago. My friend Terry gave me the wood for the Chi Rho and let me use his scroll saw to cut it out. The assembly process involved sawing, routing, sanding, staining, drilling, gluing, spraying, and screwing. All that for such a simple little object and still it's not perfect. It's just as I envisioned it. But still not perfect.

Do you know why we can design, build, invent, and create? It's because we're made in the image of God. We bear the Imago Dei. Even though it was fractured by the fall, that image of God remains in all people, believer and unbeliever alike (which accounts not only for our creativeness in construction, but for art, science, mathematics, music, complex abstract thought, philosophy, charity, technology of all sorts, concern for the environment, religion, etc.).

It never ceases to amaze me just how foolish the very smart can be when I hear scientists who write scholarly papers, design microscopes, and construct incredibly complex computer models (all via the Imago Dei) attribute our creative abilities to some blind naturalistic evolutionary process. They're missing the most important piece. Observe: My wife and I have a cleverly designed banana stand on our kitchen counter to keep brown spots from forming at the point of contact. You never see one of those at a chimpanzee's place. And they'll never come up with the concept either. Never. Because, some simple tool use not withstanding, they lack something that we have. Chimps may have opposable thumbs, but they don't have the Imago Dei.

So our ability to saw, glue, hammer, drill, etc. and create a desired effect with wood and other materials is a reflection of God's own ability to create. But the reflection is far less impressive than the real thing. Let's compare: It took me a few days of stopping here and there to get everything I needed together to create a simple pen stand. God created the universe ex nihilo (that's out of nothing). I used a table saw, drill, screwdrivers (all gifts), a router (purchased), and scroll saw (borrowed). God creates using nothing but his own infinite power. When I got done, I looked at the end result and send. "Hm. Pretty good." When God was done, he looked at the result and said it was "very good." And he was being modest. When God creates, it's abso-stinkin-lutely perfect every time.

This is how the Image of God borne in humans compares to the one we're imaging (see also art, science, mathematics, music, complex abstract thought, philosophy, love, relationship with Creation, etc.) Even before the fall and the fractured Imago Dei, our reflection of God's image could never have led anyone to confuse an image bearer with the Original. Still, our ability to image God was sufficient to glorify him in a way that pleased him. Of course, since the fall, we've begun using the Imago Dei not to glorify God, but as a giant middle finger in his face. Just look at what we've done with technology, music, and art (see also science, mathematics, complex abstract thought, philosophy, love, relationship with Creation, religion, etc.)

We've fractured that image so badly that only God could put it back together. And that he did. That's what the cross was about--removing our sin, which condemns us, and re-assembling us as people whose wills are in line with his, whose Imago Dei once again glorifies him instead of openly mocking him. For those who have put their faith in Christ, we've been bought by a price and, using no tools but the blood of Christ and the Holy Spirit, he is sawing, grinding, and sanding away every part of us that doesn't match the original image in which he made us.

When I was a kid, I had a big, shiny sticker that said, "I'm okay, God doesn't make junk!" Really ought to have had a semicolon, but we'll let that slide. The issue I have with the sticker is that, while God doesn't make junk, it does not necessarily follow that everyone who gets his hands on one of those stickers is "okay." We've bent our wills away from our Creator's and fractured his Image in us. Thank God that he loves us too much to leave us in that junky state. Thank God that he's better at working with hearts than I am at working with wood.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Pastor Zach

BTW, if all this stuff about a new heart sounds good, but you don't think you've got it, click here for more about it.

2 reader comments:

Erik said...

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ZSB said...

Hey, thanks Erik.
Tell your friends! ;)