Last summer, I found a chair by the side of the road. The finish was worn and rubbed off, the upholstery torn, and the foam was crumbling in the dry summer sun. It was beautiful. Sitting unclaimed on a street corner next to a garbage can, I knew it was the answer to the prayer I’d prayed literally the morning before, “Lord, I need a chair for my desk–a good chair, a Hobbit-y chair, a writing chair, something I can finally apply this fabric to that I’ve been storing up, waiting for the perfect subject.”
It has taken me 10 months to pull every blasted staple out, remove all the old layers of foam and padding, strip the wood, refinish it, cut out the new materials, tack everything back in again, and re-adorn it with my beautiful bolt of fabric. I’m sitting in it right now, in fact. Though it was an immensely drawn out process, I was more concerned with the product to get discouraged by how long it was taking. When I started, I estimated the beginning of fall as my completion date. It is 8 months later.
I couldn’t have rushed this project if I tried. There are just certain things you can’t do all at once, which is directly opposed to our modern addiction to connecting desire and convenience; we assume that the plot line between desire and obtainment is very direct and short because everything is so accessible. But that simply is not the case, especially with some of the most important aspects of our lives–relationships, developing skills, shoot–just becoming who we are as a person. We know this in theory, but are somehow surprised when events turn unexpectedly or delay.
In this case, most reasons for the delay was in waiting for enough money to buy a paint stripping agent, and then subsequent supplies (varnish/finish, staples, foam, paint brushes); others involved the fact that it took about an hour to apply one coat of finish, and required about a full day for it to dry before I could think of doing another one. I think I ended up with 9 coats. And then, there’s a pesky little thing called “work”, or more broadly “priorities,” that can get in the way. There are only so many hours in the day. There was no question of diligence, or even a question of whether or not it would ever get finished; the end of it was certain. The question was rather, what lengths was I willing to go, and how long was I willing to wait to see it become what I envisioned when I saw it in the first place.
I sincerely disliked spending this much time on something that seemed so selfish, but I am grateful to see fruit emerging from the process–not to mention I really enjoy sitting in it, particularly in the morning. But truly, the process reminds me of life in so many ways. Here are a few:
- As I stated above, I could not rush this process. I had to take each step in stride and trust that one day, I would get to enjoy the fruits of my labor. This may sound cheesy in applying it to a chair, but honestly, I’ll take any experience that could even remotely draw me closer to Jesus. Taking it as an analogy has helped me get through a situation where waiting is not just important–it’s required. I have no control over the situation, and having this project to work on reminded me that eventually, all processes truly have a completion. More than that, I have learned to put deep roots into trusting Jesus and communing with Him in the midst of it–because truly, that is the point more than the actual product. If I can’t rush it, I might as well enjoy the process itself. Truly, there is a delight in working as well as enjoying, and if this teaches me anything, it’s that waiting is certainly not passive. In fact, it seems to be even more active than obtaining.
- Convenience has a high price, which usually includes significant loss of the end product. I shredded a small part of the back frame by getting impatient with stapling. It sheered right through the wood. Thankfully there was no damage done to the structural integrity, and it’s not too noticeable, but had I continued, it would have splintered worse. I am not willing to sacrifice quality–or the big reveal at the end of the journey!– for the gratification of having something sooner, or at the expense of other important priorities. I’d rather something be done well. Even if the immediate cost is paid in waiting, it is a far smaller price to pay now than later.
- Life requires prophetic vision. This chair was beat-up, poorly painted in the first place (in my opinion :)), and set out for the trash as worthless. But from the moment I saw it, I knew it had value, and knew exactly what it was going to look like if I just stuck with it. Hitting delays did not make me want it less–in fact, I desired its completion more. I was not discouraged by how long it was taking, or so anxious for the product that I didn’t enjoy the process. I’ll speak candidly here: we need to get a hold of this for our own lives. The great craftsman is not discouraged in any regard to our personal growth. In fact it is a joy to Him, 1, because He sees the end from the beginning, but 2, He actually enjoys growing in friendship with us throughout the process! And this is not just for our own lives, but for those around us. As I encounter God’s opinion of others, I treat them on that basis with tenderness and joy over the victory that is sure for them. Furthermore, I have the joy of watching them steadily grow into that destiny.
- The way is narrow. The world says, “Chase your dreams! If you desire it, go for it!” The Lord says, “Lean on me, wait on me, find your delight in me–and then I will give you everything.” Both opinions maintain a couple of foundational truths: 1, you are valuable, and 2, you are meant for greatness. The difference is a timing and priority issue. The Lord is so conscious of our desires because He put them there; however, He us to have relationship with Him, and to experience those desires in the context of that relationship. He is the master story-teller, unfolding the ultimate suspense and surprise. And truly, the end-result of all things is Him. The miraculous thing is that when we keep His glory as our vision and focus, He graciously extends us a hand to join Him in glory, in full partnership with Him.
Ah yes, but there must be a crisis moment. The victory just isn’t quite as sweet when there’s no crisis to overcome. The bolt of fabric I had was literally just enough to finish the project–maybe enough left over for a miniscule footstool, but it would be a stretch. It seemed the chair was just meant to be. After completing the back and the foam on the seat, having already cut the fabric for the seat according to the former pattern, I was shocked to find the fabric just shy of fitting from edge to edge.
3 years of saving fabric. 10 months of work. Completion at hand. And was it all to be thwarted in these last few steps by an honest, but dreadful miscalculation?
I drew in a deep breath and began to staple again. As it turned out, when it looked like the fabric couldn’t stretch any farther, it ended up fitting perfectly. We hit similar snags throughout life, some infinitely more serious and less trite than chair reupholstering. However, I am realizing more and more that their presence does not mean defeat–but they do require us to stretch a little more. Again, when we stick with it, we find that the hardest won victories have the sweetest outcomes.