I stood in the corner, redundant, draped with a tarpaulin, covered with layers of builder’s dust and splashes of paint. Nearby, the elders of the church thrashed out my future. “We need to replace that old pulpit.” Said one of them and murmurs of agreement echoed.
I strained to hear as familiar tones of Jack’s voice filtered through the air. “I’m not so sure about that. It’s a good, solid piece of furniture and part of the church’s history.”
“Nah. I reckon it’s time for the new.” Rough hands pulled off my covering and they inspected me, disapproving, derogatory as they circled like vultures.
Finally, they drifted away and only Jack was left. Jack who created me and formed me into what I am today. He was the young pastor of a small church and I was his pulpit, the culmination of hours of toil and hard labour.
He moved closer and laid warm hands on my sides, running them across my surfaces as he prayed. “Lord, what can I do to resolve this situation? What would You have me do here? I don’t want to cause dissension.”
Jack and I had been together for decades. His tears had soaked into me more times than I could remember. Salty tears of sorrow as he led funerals, tears of joy as he conducted weddings, tears of repentance and prayer as he preached and called the people to seek God. Not only that, his sweat was engrained in me too. Oily patches where he had gripped me and leaned against me, hollows where he had worn me smooth.
He sighed as he walked around me. “There is some damage here. A crushed base where you fell off the platform last year. A deep gouge where the Neilson boys hit you with a chair. Some chips out of the cross on your front.”
It was a strange feeling to leave the church that had been my home for thirty years. To feel the cool wind as Jack drove down busy roads and leafy lanes. The end of the journey was his garage where I was hauled into a corner. An axe was propped against the wall and my heart sank. Was I to end up as firewood?
He started work on me the next day, slathering me with a burning, blistering substance that bubbled and stung. For hours I stood alone, confused and frightened as my skin peeled and lifted. My relief at his return was tempered by a lethal-looking scraper in his hand. Layer by layer, he scoured off old varnish and paint drips, sweat and oil. When he was done, I felt naked, exposed with no protection and so alone.
He was back first thing the next morning and this time he brought a sander. A roaring machine that chafed and shaved and a lathe that cut and sliced new contours into my cross. The air hung heavy with sawdust and a carpet of golden curls surrounded my base. I wondered how much more I could bear as he filled in gouges and sanded yet again.
Oiling was the next process. The warm scent of citrus filled the garage as he dipped a cloth in the oil. As he rubbed and polished my thirsty wood soaked in healing and restoration. It was like a balm on tender skin as he returned the next day and massaged me again with gentle strokes and care.
Finally, his work was done. He rolled up the garage door to load me into the ute and I caught a glimpse of myself in an old mirror. Was that really me? The knots and scars were still there but my appearance radiated life. Warm tones of gold and honey blended with splinters of walnut. The cross on my front had a new beveled edge and was textured like glossy, coffee beans.
I rejoiced as Jack leaned over me that Sunday. As his warm hands gripped my smooth edges. “I want to tell you a story.” he began. “The story of what God can do with something old and ugly. With something that appears to have no value. I want to tell you how pain and suffering can produce glory for His name.” I listened as God’s words flowed through him. As he shared the story of my life. As once again his tears splashed upon me.
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