By: Staci Stallings
My husband is an awesome carpenter. He can take a few pieces of wood, work for a couple hours, and wa-la! A desk! A table! A dresser! It’s amazing. But I have learned something important from him… if you want to do a job, you need the right tools. He has often told me, “I won’t even start a job if I don’t have the right tools. All it does it make you frustrated, and the job will waste your time.”
The same is true of mechanics. Have you ever gone into a mechanic’s shop? They will have against some wall or other a GINORMOUS toolbox. I mean these suckers are HUGE! They’re as tall as me, span my arm’s length, and have more drawers than most little girls could ever use for clothes. And a mechanic’s collection of tools takes literally years to build. They certainly don’t go out and buy that many tools in one fell swoop.
So our priest’s sermon on Sunday was quite interesting. He talked about tools–not carpenter tools or mechanic tools–but spiritual tools. I was fascinated. I had never really thought about it quite that way. See, I’ve been collecting tools now for some time, I just didn’t realize it.
I talked recently with a woman who was really struggling. She was a good Christian, went to church, kept her family together, but oh, was she parched! It sounded like she hadn’t had a good drink of God’s love in… well, a very long time. I could relate. It wasn’t so very long ago that I was that parched as well. Of course, I had gone to church every Sunday since I was born, but that was pretty much my only “tool,” and it showed.
My husband, as I said, is a carpenter. That means he has a specific kind of tools. He has a hammer and a screwdriver and a screwgun. But some years ago, my car broke down. He decided that rather than spend the money to get it fixed by a mechanic, he would do it. (Now, I don’t recommend this.) So he got out his tools. He got out his hammer and his screwdriver… I kid you not, this really happened.
Why are you laughing?
Fixing a car? Well, he HAD tools, didn’t he?
After the first five minutes, I vacated the premises because fixing a car with a hammer is… well… I’ll let you fill in the blanks.
But that’s kind of what I tried to do with going to church. I had one or two tools, and I tried to use them for every situation. In short, that won’t work. You don’t need one or two tools in your spiritual toolbox. You need to become a collector of tools for your spiritual toolbox because each tool does something different, and to do a God task right, you often need a variety of tools.
For example, you may be great at patience, but what if action is called for? You may be a master at faith, but if you have not love… Oh, yeah. You’ve heard that one.
God’s work is not about having one or two tools that you try to tackle every job. It’s about collecting a range of tools, so you have the right one handy when you need it.
I collect spiritual tools like some young boys collect baseball cards. I collect these tools from many sources–books, retreats, church, the Bible, songs, people, situations, secular books and music (carefully chosen), prayer, my relationship with God, teaching Sunday School, doing plays for VBS… I don’t rely on ONE tool, I seek to collect them all. From these, I have collected tools like faith, hope, love, mercy, kindness, peace, joy, patience, wisdom, awe, understanding, gentleness, compassion, etc. It’s interesting to me how the pieces from one activity fit so perfectly with another.
Because of the VBS plays, I’ve gotten to see Jesus walk on water and calm the sea, I’ve seen a leper, a blind man, and a paralytic healed. I’ve witnessed the kings’ journey to find Christ, Peter and the apostles on Pentecost, and the Israelites trek through the desert. I’ve seen Paul escape Demascus and travel all over teaching about Jesus. I’ve seen Jesus call Zaccheus from the tree and give the woman at the well living water. From Sunday School, I’ve seen the importance of bringing every brick life hands us to the cross, how walking through life blind doesn’t work, and how the grace of God broke through the wall that kept us from the Tree of Life. Through music, I’ve learned the importance of this day, this moment, how with “justice no longer in place, mercy came running,” how amazing grace really is. From my friends I’ve learned how hard patience can be, how joyful it is to live in the Spirit, and how God will let something that’s not serving us fall away so something better can get in.
All of these tools and many, many, MANY more have gone into my toolbox, and now when I go to church, there is a context to put the stories I hear. The tools I’ve been gathering come alive. I learn to use those tools in ways I hadn’t thought of before.
So my question for you today is this: Do you collect spiritual tools? Or do you just go to church and call it good?