In Genesis 1, God worked. He made this world and made us – in His image. And He said it was good, even very good. For me, the best way I feel that I image God well is through turning wood.
My most recent project involved creating a wooden stand for my straight razor and shaving brush. I began with just a large piece of wood and slowly cut and sanded and cut and sanded to develop a smooth curved shape. This project captivated all of my spare time and I found myself longing to continue late into the night, expectant of the finished product. On two separate occasions, I was convinced that I had reached my final product; however, following examination, gaps and holes in my design appeared and I proceeded to fix them. Concerns for stability were followed by the desire to stain the product. After what seemed like way to long, I finally achieved my desired end result of which I was very proud. Upon completing the project, I always found myself examining it from every angle trying to capture all of its elements and fully take in what I have made. Only then did I reach the conclusion that what I had made was “good”.
At its core, woodworking creates beauty out of unassuming pieces that are blank and might not bear any value alone. Just as we were created out of nothing, we have the ability through God’s image to create beauty out of His creation. Wood isn’t smooth or sleek in its raw form; it’s rough and harsh. When I consider the raw materials that became some of the pieces I have made, I feel such a strong sense of ownership and pride. With my time and effort, I have turned essentially a large stick into something functional and appealing to look at. Woodworking speaks to my desire to perfect and is apparent in the slow scraping and shaping required to create something beautiful.
Interestingly, that’s what I do all day as well – helping build a company called Breakout Chattanooga, part of Breakout Games. Creating a company presents some distinct challenges that must be overcome when getting off the ground. The biggest thing that I have been able to see is the feeling that things are not quite finished. Every day, some new issue will arise and present itself to us, and we will have to stretch our creativity in order to solve the problem and move closer to success. This creative process is reflected in the Breakout Games themselves, as individuals cannot merely go through the motions in order to “Breakout.” Participants have to engage in problem solving that expands beyond the surface of simple logic and cause-and-effect and taps into creativity and other areas of the mind. Just as in woodworking, sometimes the simplest solution is not always the best solution and many times, flexibility and adaptability is required in order to succeed. In both wood working and starting a business, we create grand ideas and form realities using simple means, large amounts of creativity, and adaptable mindsets. We add to creation by introducing beauty through developing creation into something grander. But the process of building the company? Sometimes it’s just as slow as scraping the wood. But it is good, and heading towards very good.
And then I realize that’s what God is doing in us. He is persistent, slowly scraping. He is innovative, flexible, creative, adaptive. But He is also using the simplest of means: the church, our vocations, our families, our lives. And He is rounding off corners, polishing, perfecting. And building, making us into a new creation, something greater and deeper than the rough piece of wood with which He started. Something beautiful. Something He will look at in satisfaction, from every angle, and declare, “He is good. She is good. Very good.” It’s my story of woodworking, my story of company building – and my story of being built by the Creator of the universe.
Collin Young is part of Breakout Chattanooga and also part of the 2015-2016 Chattanooga Fellows Program.