Hammer and Tong
Coming into the New Year, it seems like everyone is fixated on their faults, looking in the mirror and considering body image and such. It belies the simple fact in life, that there is a place for every shape and size. Form a tug of war team, and see if you want to use the vegetarian for your anchor. Fact is, the fat guy comes in handy. He might even be key, considering the situation.
Same goes for all those stray character traits we swear we are going to deal with. The comedy of being a parent is that you see your own froward self materialize in your children, one particular child gets one overblown character trait, one goes to another. It is like your faults staring you in your face. And yet… I have heard it said… the one you argue with when they are a teen ager will be the same one who argues with the doctor not to unplug you too early when the time comes. Stubbornness has its place.
And so it is, that the bottom line in life is getting things done, and all else may be considered precious. Precious. You know, when you are fixated on tiny details that don’t matter in the end.
I know about precious but I don’t think I will ever be accused of it. Rather, I might be blamed for forcing life through with a hammer and tongs where necessary. As a graphic artist, what counts in the end is getting the job done, which includes the requisite all nighters. In the beginning you start with all the fancy and whimsical things that might or might not bear on a project. Soon you are streamlining those, and later, if you are wise you have jettisoned all except what is necessary to get the job done. You won’t be precious once you have your legs up wiping the sweat from your forehead. Like Job, I have survived by the skin of my teeth but I have never missed a deadline.
New Year’s resolutions make me think about the Apostle Paul. He had faults that made him a contentious figure in the history of Christianity. Some people have accused him of being judgemental, doctrinaire, and dismissive of the role of women. They are not reading hard enough I think. Given Paul’s beginnings, there is likely no other figure who underwent such a powerful transformation. And yet even Paul complained in Romans chapter seven, that he just couldn’t seem to get past his own flaws.
Still, I think his faults were exactly what made him useful to a purpose. Who else could start something as unlikely and unruly as the early church, where you had to argue people down to the ground endlessly, using both logic and old fashioned pugnacity. Who else would enure beatings, stoning, jail, personal abandonment, hunger, travails of life, and yet come through counting it all loss if he gained Christ? That is what I call an inveterate believer.
Paul was stubborn to a fault. He could even be confrontational and unpleasant when the situation called for it. He had that famous showdown with Peter about allowing Gentiles in the Church. Unable to agree with his fellow evangelist Barnabas, they had a rift serious enough that they parted ways, and yet Paul was the same guy who wrote the beautiful words about love in Corinthians chapter thirteen which are among the most read in the Bible. Like us, he was a human being with feet of clay, whose hard-headedness sometimes got the better of him.
Hammer and tong, was how he got it done in the larger wisdom of God, who chose out a hammer and tong kind of guy because I suppose no other kind would do. The polite people just wouldn’t make it, and the easy people would be out finding more relaxing things to do than wrestle down a new religion.
When someone asks you pointedly, what your New Year’s resolutions are going to be, maybe it is time to simply smile in spite of yourself. It could be that your faults are some of the best things God has in his tool kit as a work around. It’s an all-or-nothing scenario, that big tent called the Church. It includes you, and me, and all our our faults thrown in. It could be that all those precious people out there just won’t do, the ones too busy thinking about it, because they are just too delicate to get the job done.
Show me a stubborn fool, and I will show you a fool for Christ, not precious perhaps, but hopefully effective where it counts. I wonder what Paul’s New Year resolutions must have been? “I promise not to be hard-headed this year....”. I also wonder if it really matters in the end.
Hammer and tong, my friend. It’s how we will be shoe-horned into the Kingdom faults notwithstanding.
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