The deck off the south door of our house is over twenty years old now.
While we have taken good care of it, a twenty year old deck will show its age. The third step on the stairs from the deck has two nails that work their way up. I see them and shudder to think of the granddaughters stepping on those nails. I hammer them down, and then in a few months they work their way up again.
Today I decided to fix that problem. I pulled each nail further out than usual. I bent it to the side, hammered it in half way, bent it another way, and drove it home. (My years working as a carpenter come in handy some times.) I am now confident that those nails are going to hold.
Life bends us. Sometimes that makes us insecure and we try to hide out bends. But really, it is the bends in our personality that makes us unique.
Howard Storm is a near-death experiencer I know well. An short version of his experience is here. During his NDE, he asked why there is so much suffering in the world. He was given a vision of a tree farm versus a wild forest. He was asked a question. Which is more beautiful? He was an art professor so he has strong opinions about beauty. He replied it is the wild, spontaneous looking scene. That’s right, he was told. In the wild there is disorder, trials, and adversity. If we want to live in freedom, there must be disorder. Yet the disorder builds beauty.
So it is with God’s perception of people. The very irregularity of life, the very unique quality of each individual is what gives beauty. It is the wildness of our world that produces people with unique bends. Those bends, when fully and fearlessly expressed, help us hold in place what we are put here to accomplish. We hold to what we are, not because we try to straighten ourselves and look like every other nail, but because we are unique. We hold to what we are and should be because we embrace our unique bends and twists and our unique attributes.
My father was a unique character. He didn’t like to be one of the faceless herd. He felt he should be true to himself, and he always was. Being around that helped me to be fearless. He was walking out of a church service, and a friend said to him, “Wasn’t that a wonderful service?” Dad thought it was pretty average, and said, “What did you get from it?” His friend was speechless, and said he couldn’t think of anything. Dad said to me that he thought people shouldn’t say things they don’t mean.
As I grew up, I was blessed to see him as a fearless example of someone who was himself, not trying to be like anyone else. On an Internet discussion with a critical character, I was accused of being a bible-thumping, gun carrying nut. Well, I carried a gun for a period of my life (mostly during my Army service), although today I have lost most of my interest in them. My son discovered my father’s 22 autoloader the other day, and was excited to clean it up and go shoot it. I helped him disassemble it. We cleaned it, ran a small patch through the barrel, and before reassembling it, I offered him some stock refinishing supplies I had used thirty years before to sporterize an old military rifle for deer hunting.
He carefully refinished the stock and reassembled the weapon. Now we are going to go shoot. He can take over the gun carrying job for me.
As for bible thumping, I don’t do that, but I know more about the bible than 99% of the people I have talked to. I have read it, cover to cover, numerous times, and turn to it in times of personal trial. I have a lot of personal quirks about the bible (I like Luke best, and find Paul to be a bit tedious. I am intrigued by James-the-brother-of-Jesus, and am moved by John’s mystic vision. So I appreciated being accused of being a bent nail. It helps me stay in place.
I recall chatting with a Christian minister about positive psychology topics. I wanted to make a point about reframing bad things as potentially good, so I asked him, “What do we learn from Hebrews 12?” He looked stunned. “Well, Hebrews 11 is about faith. I don’t remember what 12 is about.” (Ha! I know more than the Reverend!)
“Exactly,” I said. “No one wants to know about Hebrews 12 because it teaches us that when bad things happen to us, it is God’s hand in our life, teaching us what we need to know through painful experience. It is not a welcome bit of news.” So there is truth to the bible-studying if not thumping. I was pleased with his criticisms of me.
The Army was difficult for me. It has been hard work to learn the bible in depth. These things are not easy. Nor are my mistakes, my dead ends, my foolish endeavors. They have all left some kind of mark on my character. These bad things that leave us bent are of the greatest value. It makes us uniquely ourselves.
Imagine you are climbing a mountain, and you come to a tree hanging off the edge of a cliff. It is twisted from the winds blasting down the canyon. It is warped by loads of snow pressing against it in the winter. The very adversity it has endured makes it beautiful.
Your act of climbing the mountain provides ratification for the tree’s suffering. Without you to see the beauty, the suffering has no witness. You create the beauty by putting yourself in a place to see it.
So when you see others you see their beauty, the beauty of their uniqueness. When others see you, they can see your beauty. That’s why there are so many of us on the earth. Our job is to be witnesses of the beauty of all around us. See the good in others, and let others see the good in you. Rejoice in your sufferings and the growth they have created for you. Don’t be like others. Your twists and trials have given you a unique beauty Embrace those bends. Be the beauty you truly are.