Several months ago, I decided that I wanted to change up an old table that we used in our kitchen. This table had already been in another home, and it is not unlikely that we were its third home by now. In other words, it was well-used and well-loved, but change is one of those things that we embrace around our house, so I thought to myself, “How hard could this be? Hey, I have watched enough HGTV and other DIY programs. Just how difficult could this redo be?”
First, it took several conversations with Ben in order to get started. You see, Ben is not into furniture restoration, and as long as the table will hold up under the weight of a family-style meal, it’s good enough. In other words, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I had scoured Pinterest in order to get ideas of what I wanted to do, and I decided that I wanted paint on the table. That was the second part of our conversation. When I mentioned paint, Ben’s reply was less than encouraging. (In all fairness, I, Ben, like the look of woodgrain). So, because I wanted this to be something we would both love, I began my search for a reddish stain. Nothing struck my fancy, but I settled for red mahogany. I sanded and sanded and sanded some more. I felt confident that the time had come for the first coat of stain. Yikes! Half of the table looked great; and the other half? Not so good. It looked like the wood was rejecting the stain. So, I waited and sanded and tried the stain again. Same results. The next thing I did was to snap a picture and posted it on Facebook asking for thoughts. I got answers, and I got questions for which I did not have answers.
You may be wondering what this has to do with anything. Well, the truth is that you can learn quite a few lessons when tackling a project that you know little about. Don’t misunderstand. This was not my first round at redoing furniture, but it was my most complicated.
First lesson: I knew what I wanted, but I was willing to compromise on what we could both live with. It’s important to recognize that the best of plans may require that you make changes – especially when it comes to trying to make everybody happy. In this plan I made, I figured it would take no more than ten days. Oops! Second lesson: Allow plenty of time for the process to be completed. Even the simplest of projects can become complicated. This is true in our Christian walk, too. Most of the time, we do not get answers the way the Gideon did. We have no fleece to put out, and even if we did, God may not choose to respond to our request. God’s Word reminds us in many different places that this life is a process, and the process is going to be more complicated than we imagined, and even painful, at times. My furniture restoration project certainly was. It was hot. It was cold. It rained. It required sanding and sanding and more sanding. And the smell…. No one told me that the stain would stink, and it didn’t stink for just a day or two. It smelled for weeks. Third lesson: Much like when we dabble in things we should not be involved in, the smell of sin clings to us. The opposite is true, too. When we cling to God — when we worship Him in truth and power — we are a sweet-smelling aroma to the Father.
I really worked hard to pick the right product. I read the labels, and I sought to understand the instructions. However, without a teacher or advice from someone who did this sort of thing for a living, I was attacking this project with limited knowledge. So, I asked around, and I was pointed in the direction of gel stain. I have never used gel stain before, and though it seemed simple enough, it applied differently than other stains. Needless to say, I had a few problems with the stain. There was as much on me as was on the furniture — especially when I got to the chairs.
Fourth lesson: As believers, we have written instructions that we call the Bible. In that precious Book, we even have dire warnings that tell us that if the instructions are not followed, disaster will result. That is why it is imperative that we join ourselves with a body of believers who can help us understand God’s instructions and model for us how to live them out. You see, I asked for advice, and I tried my best to follow the advice given. But I am a novice when it comes to a project like mine. What I needed more than advice was lessons. I needed someone to come alongside and teach me. In the Christian life, we need people to come alongside us and teach us how to deal with tragedy. How am I supposed to react when I lose my job and face total financial meltdown? You may have never experienced any of these, but other believers have. We need those believers to come alongside and teach us the lessons they have learned. There will always be differences in our circumstances, but we can still gain valuable principles from their journeys. Sometimes just knowing that we aren’t the first (aren’t you glad you weren’t the first Job?) to go through a situation provides a little bit of comfort. And know this: One day, child of the King, you will get to be the one that comes alongside another brother or a sister and teach them the lessons you have learned in your journey of life.
Life “redos” take patience; that is a fruit of the Spirit most of us had rather not harvest. I could tell a difference in my work on the chairs from one to the other. The first chair was, and is still, kind of sad-looking. It could use a second redo, and maybe one day it will happen. But the good news is that I learned lessons as I worked. While working through the chairs, I realized that I needed a different kind of sander. I needed a Dremel, and about four chairs into the process, I remembered that we had one. I also concluded that if I had removed four screws from each chair that the process would have been a lot easier. Fifth lesson: We are all that way when it comes to our Christian walk. Sometimes God is saying, “I have given you all the tools you need. Why aren’t you using them?” In those moments, He is just asking us to take them up and start using them for Kingdom work. In the midst of this process, I also learned that sometimes something just has to go. Getting rid of, or removing things that interfere with the work is necessary or we will end up working twice as hard and still not have a satisfactory outcome.
(Lessons Learned was a collaborative effort by Ben and Sonya)