You wouldn’t know it to look at him, but my friend, Dick Willits, is a Master Woodworker. Nor would he be comfortable with such an exalted moniker. Now in his 80’s and long retired, Dick took up woodworking in his later years. Not sure if it was a repressed passion of his or that his wife Patty kicked him out into the garage and told him to do something productive. Regardless of the reason, this retired Trucking Executive discovered his creative side.
Tapping unknown skills, Dick first began crafting small wooden bowls. Before long his garage resembled less of a garage and more of a workshop, featuring an array of tools and machines all serving one purpose — to coat this octogenarian in sawdust as he unleashed his creative talents.
Dick will travel miles for the right block of wood. This 80-something guy acts like a five-year-old on Christmas morning anytime he stumbles across trunks of spalted maple, box elder, ambrosia maple, birch, or red oak. I see firewood. Dick sees a bowl, a cutting board, a platter. His artistic skills spawn the kind of art that is both functional and practical. My home proudly displays a number of his creations.
Dick, in his humble way, may still consider himself a novice woodworker, but I find great inspiration in his work.
Starting with a chunk of wood, he first cuts away the sapwood with a chainsaw. Using a lathe, he further contours the block of wood until a rough shape begins to appear. The trimming continues utilizing a variety of gouges. More specific tools like a veiner or fluter, are used to create the finer details. Polishing with an abrasive paper, he reaches that moment when the final creation simply needs sealing, sometimes staining. When done, his one-of-a-kind artwork is something to be admired and cherished.
Of late, Dick has taken to converting even the most twisted, damaged, and knotted wood into a masterpiece. And that’s when I had an epiphany of sorts.
There is a local group in my church community that ministers to people who are divorced, widowed, or coming out of an abusive relationship. They refer to themselves, within their circle, affectionately but accurately, as “the Brokens.” Seeing Dick’s recent artwork was a reminder to me that it is the Lord who is the Master Woodworker, one who can take any block of wood, no matter how scarred, how burned, how broken, and still create a masterpiece.
And aren’t we all “Broken?”
Scripture tells us that God created us in His Image, the Imago Dei, (Genesis 1:27) and by His grace perfects us.
“After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” I Peter 5: 10
It is on the lathe of life that our Heavenly Woodworker works out our flaws and shapes us into what He has created us to be. There is no imperfection beyond His forgiveness, His healing.
Dick’s handiwork reminds me of God’s handiwork. As the true beauty of wood is best revealed in the hands of a true craftsman, one that incorporates the imperfections into a new creation of beauty, so too is the same true for us.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
A woodworker carving a lion out of a block of wood was once asked how he was able to do it. He replied, “I just cut out everything that doesn’t look like a lion.” So how does our Heavenly Woodworker perform His workmanship? By removing everything that does not look like Him.
So, if you will, please excuse the sawdust, God is not finished with me yet.
Author’s Note: For a picture of one of Dick’s creations, check out this post on the website, TheBuddyBlog.com