Cutting Wood

When Bryan Chapell was 8 years old, his father took him out in the woods behind his house to teach him how to use one of those old-timey two-person saws.

They were practicing using the saw by cutting through some trees that had fallen down. They were cutting through this fallen over tree and that fallen over tree.

But then, they happened to cut into a log that had a rotten core. When they cut through it and a round of wood fell of, Bryan noticed that the inside, rotten part looked a lot like a horse’s head

Inspiration struck! He had a great idea for a gift for his dad. When his father wasn’t looking, Bryan grabbed that round of wood and stuffed inside his jacket for later.

They still make two-person saws – who knew!?!?

The Project Comes Together

When Bryan got home, he took that section of rotten log that looked like a head and he attached it by some means to a length of two-by-four. Thus he now had a horse head and horse body!

He then went out in his yard and found some sticks, which he proceeded to glue on either end of the two-by-four.  He now had a horse head, a horse body, and four horse legs.

He then went and found some twine that he un twined and glued on to the end of the two-by-four opposite the head.  He now had a hourse head, a horse body, four horse legs, a horse tail.

Oh, but he was not done yet! 

Bryan then went and found a dozen or so nails and hammered them in down the length of the two-by-four, but only part way. Most of the nail was still jutting out of the wood.  Also, the kid is 8 years old so you have to imagine that they were going every which way.

Bryan then wrapped the whole thing in butcher block paper and went to give it to his father.

8-year-olds aren’t particularly known for their gift-wrapping prowess

The Big Reveal

When Bryan’s father took off the wrapping, he smiled and did what any good parent would do. He said, ” Oh wow, Buddy! Thank you so much! This is really great! Uh… what is it?”

“It’s a horse tie rack!” Bryan exclaimed, “A tie rack that looks liked a horse!”

“Of course it is!” his father said as he gave him a big hug. He then hung that tie rack up on the wall of his closet wall where he used it for years and years.

By the time Bryan had gotten old enough to need a tie rack of his own, his opinion of his piece of art changed dramatically

A Changed Perspective

When Bryan first gave that rotten-log-horse-head tie rack to his father,  he believed that it was an objectively beautiful thing, an objectively useful thing. In his mind, it was a work of art worthy to be displayed in the Louvre in Paris.

But as Bryan got older, he came to realize that his tie rack was not the amazing piece of art that he had originally imagined it to be. From from being objectively beauty and objectively useful, it was, in fact, quite ugly and barely usable. Of the ten or so nails sticking out of it, only a few were at such an angle that they could actually support a tie without it falling off.

However, his father had received and used that gift not because of its inherent goodness, but out of love for his child.

As the restoration of Ecce Homo in Borja, Spain reminds us: not all art is beautiful and good! 

A Lesson About Love

It’s often hard to wrap our minds around the fact that God loves all people equally: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ted Bundy. Mother Theresa and Vladimir Putin. You and the jerk that cut you off on your way home from work.

It’s hard to wrap our minds around that fact because if you’re doing your best to live right, to help others, to make our world a better more habitable place for all of God’s children, God’s love can feel less like the gift that it truly is, and more like payment for services rendered.

But if we, like Bryan, step back, and take really hard look at all the things we do that we think makes us more deserving of God’s love than others, we begin recognize how imperfect our actions really are. And yet, like a good father, God receives those imperfect gifts of ours, and uses them as building blocks for the kingdom of heaven here on earth.

Which is all to say, God’s love is not something that we earn by virtue of the majestically carved teak stallions that we lay at God’s feet in the form of  our worship and service. Rather, God’s love is a gift to us, that works in and through our lives despite the decrepit, rotten wood, horse head tie racks we keep lobbing God’s way.

Thanks be to god for that!