Unfinished Work

Over on the right hand side of our garage is a workbench. It’s not my workbench, because it was here when we started renting, but I’ve laid claim to it for now. On the top shelf sits a nondescript cardboard box: 40” long, 12” wide and around 4” tall. If you noticed it at all you’d assume it was just full of random junk, given the state of things surrounding it: scraps of too-small wood I won’t throw out; my grandfather’s handsaw; the miscellaneous clamps I was given by my aunt after my uncle passed away.

What’s in the box? Well, If I want to wax philosophical, it contains the death of a dream, a picture of a life which once was, but is no longer.

In actuality, the contents are much less dramatic: thin pieces of mahogany and walnut, rosewood and maple, and aromatic cedar (which still brings a smile to my face on the rare occasion I open it up). Collectively they comprise the derelict remains of my failed attempt to build an acoustic guitar.

I see that box every time I go into our garage. It beckons to me.

Sometimes I get it down and rifle through it. I pick up the neck and hold it as if it’s attached to a guitar body. I feel the weight of it. I consider the way the carve fits in my left hand, imagining if it actually had strings for my fingers to press and form chords. I remember the time spent sharpening the spokeshave, setting it against the block of wood , pulling it slowly towards me, and watching ribbons of mahogany fall to the ground, revealing what would eventually become the only recognizable part of a guitar I had to show for all my efforts.

I put the neck back in the box and and notice the long, too-thin pieces of mahogany. I remember my attempts to bend a similar set of the same too-thin wood, and how frustrating it was to watch them split and splinter from too much pressure brought too quickly, applied long before they were ready to be shaped.

Too much pressure too soon can be catastrophic, you know.

At one point I had glued up, carved and braced a mahogany back plate. There was also a beautiful spruce top planed down to thickness, having the sound hole cut out, complete with rosette (the little decoration that runs around the hole). This was to be the focal point, the main ingredient! The top, straight grained and waiting for notes and melodies to spring from the soundhole!

Lord, it was the hardest work I’d ever tried, wood-working wise, but, gosh, it was fun.

Then we moved, and like the rest of our lives, the parts of my hope-to-be guitar got boxed up and put in storage while we waited for direction on where we’d wind up, what we’d be doing. Eventually, nearly a year later, when we started to get settled, I moved all our stuff out here, including my box of dreams….errrrrr…parts.

The top was broken in multiple spots at some point on the move. I remember holding in in my hands, thinking of the hours spent working on it, and realizing it was ruined beyond my ability to repair. Though it was just a piece of wood, the moment stands prophetic. It seemed to suck the wind out of my sails. In some ways, without seeming too dramatic, it seemed a visible reminder of how very much life had changed, of how different everything was now, and of how it would never be the same.

Some things, it seems, are beyond repair (or at least beyond my ability to repair them).

I want to believe I’m not the proverbial box of parts which held such promise but, alas, now sits buried on a shelf in the heavenly garage. I want to believe I’m not like those sides, splintered and broken from too much pressure brought too soon. I want to believe the stress of the uprooting from NC and replanting in OK (forgive me for mixing metaphors) didn’t result in me (or all of us) getting broken in the process, beyond repair.

I want to believe that God is not like me.

There is a piece of craft paper hanging in our kitchen, a sacrament formed from brown paper and sharpie, a visible reminder in my wife’s perfect handwriting of a promise from Scripture, one of those verses we cling to for hope, for assurance, for reminding:

And I am sure of this, that HE who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 1:6

She capitalized and underlined “HE”, a little emphasis given to remind this is not our work, but God’s. It seems like every time I begin to sink, every time I start to wonder if it was really the Holy Spirit or just stress that caused us to take our leap of faith, these words come up.

It reminds me to hope. It’s a call to remember there are still good parts in the box, and they’re not broken beyond repair. No, it may not look like I’d hoped, or like we dreamed, but there is still music to be made, joy to be brought, songs to be sung, and life to be lived.

No, I don’t think He’s done with me, with us, or with you.

2 thoughts on “Unfinished Work

  1. This makes me want to cry. Sad tears for your pain but happy tears for your trust in the only One who can see you through all the change. It makes me think of Abraham who left not even knowing his destination and how hard that had to be. Or of the Israelites taken to Babylon – they couldn’t even speak the language. God has restoration ahead for you!! Much love to you and your sweet wife who is so wise to put that verse on display where you can see it every day! We pray for you all.


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