Sunday, September 13, 2009

Straightening Nails

We renovated the bathroom a few years ago and reused the old crown molding, filling in old nail holes and repainting it. I don’t know what it is with the old molding, but it’s been a great place for mold to grow. We’ve scrubbed and scrubbed and re-painted and re-painted, but the mold keeps growing. So today I took the moldy molding off and am putting up some new molding made of some kind of fibrous vinyl or other polymer. Silly me for re-using old things.

Well, I’m still re-using old things. The nails that held up the molding before we renovated the bathroom were straightened and reused to put the molding back up. Yesterday, I reused those same nails a third time to hang the new molding. I get paid a decent salary to do my job. I know about how much I’m worth an hour and it hardly seems worth spending the time carefully straightening these old nails carefully with a hammer, the back of one piece of the old molding and occasionally the end of the concrete porch, when I have a difficult twist in the nail to get out.

But there is more value that the mere cost of new nails. It was a beautiful day out, relatively quiet in my neck of the woods. Somewhere in the distance a church chimed a couple of hymns. And time goes back to when this was a more agrarian culture. More nails were straightened in those days and reused. More planks of wood were carefully removed from old construction and reused in new construction. The very oak timbers that make up my front porch came out of an old barn that was torn down years ago. I have connected with a meaning that God presents to us.

I consider that when Noah built the ark, he didn't go down to the local Home Depot and purchase the lumber, nails and newest power tools. Rather, I imagine that he had to locate many of the materials himself. He had to see to the construction of his own tools. Such thing were not in abundance at the time. He may have already had some tools, but tools wear out and must be repaired or new ones fabricated. He had a whole ship to build, a zoo to collect, and only a handful of people to help him. It took a lot of time to accomplish his assigned task.

But God didn't reuse humanity. Rather, he promised to destroy humanity and start back over with Noah and his family. He fulfilled this promise. He promised to not do it again. With the birth of the Church and the gospel of grace, we can see that he has fulfilled this promise as well. And he never faltered on his promise to "crush the head of the serpent", that is to conquer death, which he promised at the fall.

But utterly destroying everything is not a typical pattern of God's. He did save a still-sinful remnant. Moses perhaps realized this when God threatenend to destroy all the Israelites and start over with Moses. God knew he wasn't actually going to do it. Moses pleaded for the Israelites on the honor of God's glory, making no excuses for the Isrealites and God reused his wayward people according to his plan.

So there I stood for some time hammering bent nails using the back of a piece of the old molding and occasionally the edge of the concrete porch when I came across a particularly twisted nail.

We are sinners - bent and twisted like used nails. We can make an economic choice to throw the old out and purchase new ones, but God is extravagant, giving value to twisted nails by spending the time to straighten them out. This involves the forming power of the hammer on each nail and a stone to sharpen them somewhat with the understanding that a slightly dulled nail still penetrates the material, but doesn't split it.

But if we think that God redeems all things, let's not forget the molding. We worked with the old molding to cleanse it and purify it from the mold, but the mold had gotten into the wood and no matter how we scrubbed and painted, the mold would resurface. We could make the molding look good for a time, but the mold was too deep to remove. The new molding is now in and it looks great. There is no mold. It is pure. The old molding is on the pile in the back of the garden to burn. It seems only in it's destruction by fire will it be purified.

Note the floor of the porch. There are some rust stains where some metal chairs have been and some imperfections in the concrete. But it is still happily used. Kids still ride their scooters across it and we still hold get-togethers on the porch. A couple of weeks ago some passengers on a church bus that ran out of fuel in front of our house were able to rest on this porch. Likewise, the nails, now straightened, still bear some imperfections, but I am capable of hammering them in. the hammer has some rust and some pits, but it is still capable of hammering in some nails. Likewise, all imperfections do not compromise our ability to serve God. Rather, he is most clearly seen in our weaknesses, not that we exalt our weaknesses, but rather that we bear some shame for them and yet are seen to have the power of the Master. He is therefore exalted. No one came into the bathroom when I had hung the new molding and marvel at the fine nails I reused. Rather, they comment on my handiwork. "It looks good, Jim. Much better than that old moldy molding." Likewise, God is exalted when others see him in our humility.

Are you a bent and twisted nail? Are you being subjected to the blows of the Master's hammer that he might straighten you and make you useful? Do you dwell in his house as a part of his magnificant handiwork? I pray that you are not taken to the fire.

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