by Joanie Butman
Every summer I take on a pet project. This year’s is collecting driftwood to create a beachy coffee table. I’ve seen them used in seaside homes, but they come with a steep price tag and I’m discovering why. Combing the shoreline for interesting driftwood is not easy and involves time, a good eye and, in some cases, lots of muscle. This week I came across the motherload: a beautiful, silver-patinaed stump. Only problem was that it was perched atop a massive outcropping of boulders. My husband took one look and recognized an insane Joanie moment in the making. “I don’t want anything to do with this” he mumbled as he walked away.
Fair enough, but I was not to be deterred. I just needed to get creative. I decided to roll it out. I got as far as the water line where the rocks levelled off before exhaustion set in. I figured I’d just roll it a little each day until I reached a point where I could get it into a wagon. I returned the next day to continue my effort, but it was gone. I was ‘stumped.’ I searched around as if I could misplace a HUMONGOUS tree stump. Just by chance, as I turned to leave, I spotted what I now considered my table base half way down the beach. Nature had solved my problem for me. The tide swept it off the rocks and deposited it close to the beach access where I could have a truck pick it up. Divine intervention (or protection) for sure. Now, I just needed to get it roadside. I enlisted my sister-in-law, and we shared a Lucy and Ethel moment, dragging the stump across the sand – no easy feat.
I could almost hear my brother-in-law’s eyes rolling when I called to ask him to lend his truck and muscle for transportation. It’s not the first time he’s been drawn into one of my ‘projects.’ It’s surprising he still answers my calls. Regardless, he picked it up and delivered it to my yard. Now, the fun part begins as I strip away the remnants of years in the ocean,and old bark still clinging to nooks and crannies.
I always invite God into anything I’m doing – especially design projects since He is the ultimate Creator. As I worked, it occurred to me that my stump retrieval could be analogous to what Jesus does for us. He recognizes inherent beauty beneath scarred and tattered lives. WE are His sole/soul project. He seeks us out, rescues us, cleans us up and gives us new purpose – specializing in those tossed aside, considered useless or unworthy. He is not deterred by even the toughest cases.
Christ takes the roots that He created and exposes them, revealing beauty where others saw only waste. Of course! It’s no wonder His is called an upside/down kingdom. Our imperfections create our unique beauty. The same way I’m chipping away the stubborn crusty bark from my stump, He slowly chips away our hardened outer layers to expose the underlying beauty. It doesn’t happen overnight. The same way that root stump was tossed around in the ocean to achieve its current patina, so are we in the sea of life. Based on its size, those roots must have supported a lovely tree in its previous life. Even in death it will continue to provide beauty. Similarly, we need to be ready and willing to die to self before God can begin His restoration process.
When I think of my past projects, some of the most beautiful and unique are actually the result of mistakes. Miraculously, God has done the same with my life. He’s given me the gift of free will, which I’ve abused more often than not making my share of incredibly bad choices. Regardless, God has redeemed them and woven all those disasters into the woman I am today. Incomplete, definitely scarred and battered, but with the rough edges rounded and smoothed by the process.
The miracle of grace is that when we surrender to Christ, His transformative power turns our lives upside down, allowing the roots of His love to heal, restore and radiate beauty into the lives of others. We are repurposed, working together for His glory. This privilege was more costly than any coffee table, yet He offers the gift of grace freely to anyone who chooses to accept it.