Since one of the churches I serve is closing down for three months, I have some extra time. I am sure that most of it will get filled up with a variety of things that I can’t plan on or foresee but I do have plans for some of it. I bought some clockworks and am going to build a tide clock. The clockworks only need a battery to work–but the clock body is my project for the next few weeks.
I haven’t done too much wood working for the last few years for a variety of reasons and so my skills are a bit rusty. I am as good as ever at turning nice pieces of wood into sawdust but getting the remaining wood to look like it is supposed to is a bit harder. In fact, the nice piece of clear, kiln dried pine that I bought to build the clock body is currently sitting on the work bench in small pieces that don’t quite fit together as I planned on them fitting together.
They will work, sort of, especially if I make some changes in the original plan. The clock won’t look quite like I saw it in my mind but if I make the changes, it will look okay and will definitely tell me the time and the state of the tides. Now, of course, as a preacher, this reality sparked all kinds of thoughts. I can and probably will use the clock as a sermon illustration some day, showing how God often has to alter his perfect plans for us to make up for our less than perfect execution. God has proven himself a master at work-arounds, at least in my life. Some days, I feel that God’s plan A for my life has been reworked around my mess ups that we are currently on plan ZZZzz, version 1.3.
I have used the work-around route in my ministry more times than I can count. None of us is perfect and when we come together, our imperfections interact and, well, work-arounds become the order of the day.
But with this clock project, I didn’t want a work around, not even if it would give me a funny and effective sermon illustration. I liked the original plan, even if it only existed in my head. I could still see what I want the clock to look like. And so the more I thought of the work around, the less I liked it. So, I am not going to go with the work-around. I am starting over. I know what caused the problem and I am pretty sure I can avoid it. The small pieces that won’t fit together will either get incorporated in another project or start a fire–dry pine is great (but expensive) kindling.
But I am still a preacher and so there has to be an illustration in there somewhere. Right now, it looks like the potential sermon story focuses on the fact that sometimes, we work around and sometimes, we start over. The real key is knowing when to do which, as far as I am concerned. I can afford to start the clock over–I have lots of time since there is no deadline for finishing it; I can afford another piece of kiln-dried pine since the clock body will only require a short length and most of all, I won’t be content with a work around for this clock, or at least the work around I was facing. Given my woodworking skills, the ultimate clock will definitely have work arounds but at least it won’t have this one.
I am not a perfectionist but I do have some standards and desires. For me, much of my approach to woodworking and the rest of my life for that matter is summed up by some words of wisdom from a professor I encountered early in my university life. He was talking about writing papers but the words work for most things: “Do the best you can with the time you have”. I might alter it a bit to have it say, “Do the best you can within the circumstances you find yourself” but either way, it is good advice for woodworking and life.
May the peace of God be with you.