Coaxing Wood, Coaxing Change

by Sarah B. Drummond

Question: why did Jesus leave carpentry to save the world?

Answer: because saving the world was less frustrating.

This cynical thought crossed my mind yesterday as I found myself stymied by a project for which I was patently unqualified. The house into which our family recently moved did not have knobs on the closet doors. I bought the knobs. I charged the drill. The screws for the knobs were ¼” shorter than they needed to be, and thus the hilarity ensued.

Suffice it to say that many words passed through my mind and spilled out my lips that are not appropriate for Lead Time. But the knobs are now on, and with a little bit of patience and problem solving, I’m happy with the results. The whole endeavor reminded me of the days in the midst of transition at Andover Newton when we just couldn’t get something to work, but we had to get it to work, so we did. Those days were not easy, and we had a lot of them; more lie ahead.

My momentary foray into carpentry taught me some lessons about working with wood. Wood was once alive but is not anymore; that doesn’t mean, however, that it’s dead. Wood retains a living character that requires understanding, coaxing, and care. With some cooperation, beautiful or at least functional results emerge from wood. With too little patience or too much force, wood resists. Andover Newton is like wood in that it is beautiful and full of history. Our School resists sudden force yet can bend when handled with gentleness and an unwillingness to give up.

Recently, Martin Copenhaver wrote about the importance of perseverance in the midst of dramatic institutional change. Honestly, if it were not for his perseverance and that of my colleagues, I am not sure I would be able to stay the course. Daily challenges — the theological education equivalents of screws that are a little too short — would build up into an unbearable load of discouragements. I require daily doses of laughter with colleagues who have been there; who are there.

Jesus had his friends. As a friend of Jesus, I would like to think he would have laughed at me while I was sweating (and swearing) it out with my drill. I would like to think that he would have laughed every time our School, in the midst of change, hit some bizarre, unforeseeable obstacle. He might have said, “You can’t write this stuff,” shaking his head.

I like to think that Jesus watches us get back up again every time we fall down, and he recognizes that we love him. Ultimately, it’s that love that moves us forward. Make the world look like God pictured it, he tells us. And we say yes.