I’m fairly handy, and I enjoy building. My wife, Verena, and I have several pieces of furniture in our house that I have made with nothing for plans but a couple of pins that she’s passed to me from her Pinterest account. And while creating something where there was formerly nothing is a lot of fun, my favorite projects are restoring old pieces of furniture for new purposes.
Verena and I are perfectly compatible when it comes to this. She has the vision and I carry out the work. I’ve got really terrible vision for these sorts of things. For the life of me I can’t see “potential,” but when she looks at our house, or a room, or a piece of old furniture on the side of the road, she sees not what it currently is but what it could be.
For instance, take our most recent project. We were given an antique hutch from some friends about a year ago. It was already old when they received it, so it was extra old when we got it. It was huge–we literally couldn’t get it into our house–but my wife loved it. It looked as if it was “modified” several times depending upon the use it was being put to by its various owners over the years. There were random holes here and there for cords, a square cut out of the bottom right for seemingly no reason, and a bunch of other little oddities. It was painted over several times and the various layers of paint were chipping and cracking. Our friends had kept it outside, and–because it couldn’t fit into our house–it stayed outside with us over the past year as well serving no real purpose except to occasionally hold some chips and drinks during the summer when we had guests over.
This thing was weathered, but Verena still loved it. So finally, at the appropriate time–once we had some other bigger projects out of the way–she said she wanted it in the house, so I went to work. The biggest need was for it to get skinnier–by about 16 inches. However, it’s an antique hutch, and there were some neat things about the sides that we didn’t want to lose, so the difficulty was to get rid of the unnecessary portions without compromising the personality of the whole piece in the process. In order to do that I had to dismantle it. I took it apart completely. I punched out pieces with a hammer, tore off trim with a pry bar, cut old pieces to fit the new design, sanded off old finish, gathered new materials to make improvements, and then started the work of putting it back together.
As the piece began taking form it had it’s new dimensions, it had new parts and re-purposed old parts, it had a new finish, and it seemed altogether different. It was quite simply a new creation. Yet, when you look at it now you can’t help but see the old piece in it. It has remaining characteristics from its former life, but they have been made new, tooled, and redeemed in such a way that they now serve a new and appropriate purpose. It also has some marks remaining from its past–cuts, dents, scars. These areas are better than they were, but still not what they should be. So the piece is undeniably what it has always been yet simultaneously what it never was. That’s my favorite part!
The reason I love this kind of work is because I see myself in the project. God found me in a state of disarray and no value, yet he knew what he would make me. My overall illustration breaks down because God doesn’t look at us, in our broken state, and see “potential” like we have something to offer him. We’re told that before God’s intervention we were dead (Ephesians 2:1), but God made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:4). He doesn’t make us alive by simply adding a new coat of paint here, or oiling a squeaky hinge there; he dismantles. He breaks us completely apart so that he can put us back together in order to carry out his purposes while somehow maintaining the original character and personality he created us with in the first place. Just like the discarded piece of furniture, I wouldn’t have been able to re-purpose myself, but God put in–and continues to put in–his labor in me (Ephesians 2:8-9) to the extent that I might be called his workmanship and faithfully carry out the good works that he has prepared for me (Ephesians 2:10).
I pray that I would be able to see gospel, God glorifying, truths like this in all of my labors–not just some, but I’m thankful that this work turns my eyes to my creator and sustainer, and I’m happy to know that he isn’t done working on me yet.