A Pepper Grinder Post


You may remember two posts I wrote some time ago ( and ) about building a piece of furniture. It was, in my opinion, a slightly odd piece of furniture (see the first picture), but that was kind of the point. We wanted something very particular, and we couldn't find any piece of ready-made furniture that would fit the bill. So, even though what I made looked a little weird, it did what we wanted it to, and we used it happily for a few years.

old furnitureRecently, we realized that our needs had changed, and we could get something that would look nicer and would also be more useful. This meant I had to put together the new piece of furniture (which was pretty easy, since it was a kit), but it also meant that I had to remove the thing I had built and take it apart.

I will admit that I had a certain sad feeling as I took the old thing apart. Not that I was immensely proud of it. I'm a practical, rather than an aesthetic, builder. I don't have the patience or the equipment to make lovely dovetailed joints and put perfectly matching wood plugs in all my screw holes. But, I had done a reasonably nice job. It was smoothly finished, it was solid, and most of the screw holes were not in obvious places. And yet, here I was, undoing all the work I had spent hours doing before. It made me feel a little like, "What was the point of making the silly thing?"

split woodEach screw I backed out felt like a tiny death. Most of the pieces came apart, so I might be able to re-use them in something else. One piece, however, was well-glued, and it split in two when I had to persuade it to part from its neighbor.

I think that we, in our Christian lives and our Christian institutions, can easily fall into melancholy or resistance when it is time to tear something down. Think of local churches that keep a once-successful program going long after it has outlived its usefulness. Think of church members who are more interested in remembering the glory days of a church than they are in trying to discern what God wants them to do now.

furniture dismantledIn my own life, I don't think I'm too prone to hanging onto old ways of doing things, but I do certainly experience regret. During our years of raising eight children, there were few times we didn't have a child under five in the house. Were there exhausting and exasperating moments? Sure. But as I look back at photos taken during that time, I also experience a pang. There were so many funny moments, and kids look so adorable when they are little.

new furnitureNow, our "baby" is thirteen. We have grandchildren, but they don't live nearby. We still get a lot of pleasure from the children who live with us, but we are simply in a different stage of life than we were. My wife has pointed out that God is freeing us to do different things. I totally agree with that, but there are many times I don't feel the excitement of the new possibilities.

Especially at this time of year, I want to remind myself that new life has to be preceded by death. I had to take my old piece of furniture apart and move it out to the garage before I could get the new cabinet in place. Now, when I look at the one corner of our room, I don't see a functional but somewhat dorky-looking piece of furniture I built. I see a tall, graceful white cabinet. It looks nice. It makes me smile.