Saturday, January 23, 2016

God's Refinishing Work

One of the things I inherited from my parents was a love of beautiful wood, especially oak.  So over the years, I have refinished a good number of pieces of furniture, making it possible to acquire some beautiful and functional furniture at a very reasonable cost.  Those who know me and have watched my projects come and go have seen my love/hate relationship with this hobby.  Even after several attempts, I have not learned any strategy to make the process of stripping off the old finish easy, fast, or pleasant.  I don’t enjoy wearing goggles and heavy-duty gloves, the stench, dealing with chemical burns, or gathering up piles of steel wool pads soaked with stripper and old varnish.  But still I take on projects, and not simply as the means to get some nice furniture for little money.

Despite the hate part of refinishing furniture, there is a love part as well.  As the old varnish and stain come off along with the dirt and stains accumulated over years if not decades, I get to see the beauty of the wood that was hiding underneath.  The imagination and thoughtful design of the creator becomes apparent.  It is wonderful to see the unexpected beauty as a newly stripped surface emerges.  And then there is the delight in making the beauty functional and lasting by completing the job with a series of finishing coats.

I believe that the pleasure I take in refinishing furniture reflects my calling as a Christian counselor.  As a counselor dedicated to helping people build their lives on the truth of Christ, I assist in the “stripping” process—the hard work of identifying long-standing hurts and repenting of the sinful, self-protective habits that have developed in response.  It is a hard and painful time, and it is hard for me to find pleasure in it.  But I know that if my client perseveres, we will get to see the amazing person who has been hidden under all the years and layers of sin dirt and coverings.  And then we see the glorious purposes that God intends for that person, highlighted by the “finishing coats” of God’s redemptive work.

It is not difficult to see how the Lord’s sanctifying and redeeming work in us is like refinishing.  And now that we are looking at a new year, the concept of New Year’s resolutions arises once again.  I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions because they generally represent a self-focused effort in which performance is emphasized.  If, however, we come before the Lord, ask Him to search our hearts, and put our lives in the hands of the Great Refinisher, we can be reformed and shaped in amazing ways.  We need not fear the need for correction and sanctification.  Just like the refinishing of furniture, the process can be long, hard, tedious, painful, and at times downright ugly.  But the result—a beautiful life made new and glorious for the Lord’s glorious purposes—is worth it.