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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Tool Box Church


Down on the corner of Hardware Street and Artist Road sat the little ToolBox Church. It was a nice little place, full of bustling, joyful activity. ToolBox Church could boast a congregation full of useful tools. Mr. Hammer served his part by making sure no nails were sticking out. Then there was Sir Paintbrush who added aesthetic little touches here and there. Mrs. Sandpaper kept the pews from splintering and Mr. Screwdriver made sure things didn’t fall apart. Level was a newcomer and was vigilant about precision. All in all, ToolBox Church was and ideal place to be, to serve and to fellowship.

The Head of ToolBox Church, Mr. Construction Worker, was very pleased with His group. They worked in harmony, each complementing the other. Together they made sure ToolBox Church was a warm, welcoming place where any new tools could jump right in using their particular skills to advance the beauty and functionality of the Church. Things seemed to be going well until one day…

“Mr. Hammer, don’t you think you’ve done enough pounding around here? You know, you do make an awful lot of noise! And I think you are just a little too picky about that tiny nail sticking out! We need some peace and quiet around here,” said Sir Paintbrush. Mr. Hammer, hurt and wounded and somewhat perplexed quit his hammering. He didn’t know what to do. He wanted to pound even louder after that! But out of respect for Sir Paintbrush, he quietly took himself home and after quite some time decided to leave the toolbox altogether. Sadly, Mr. Hammer developed rust from lack of use.

Without Mr. Hammer a few nails did stick out a little, but at least there was quiet in the place now. Maybe Mr. Hammer wasn’t needed after all. Besides, Sir Paintbrush was then able to work harder and longer at prettying the place, without all that bothersome noise. Sir Paintbrush forgot that Mr. Construction Worker got pleasure out of hearing Mr. Hammer serve Him so faithfully. Sir Paintbrush thought he knew the best way to please Mr. Construction Worker, and decided after his success with Mr. Hammer that he would now ‘fix’ ToolBox Church to be all he envisioned it could be.

One day Mrs. Sandpaper was discreetly smoothing out a rough patch on one of the pews when in walked Sir Paintbrush. “You know, you’re taking off the paint I put on there a month ago! How am I supposed to do my job if you come around messing it up all the time? And look at that sawdust on the floor! That makes this place look ugly!” said Sir Paintbrush. Now Mrs. Sandpaper was a tender soul, but she recalled what had happened to Mr. Hammer and was not about to let Sir Paintbrush walk all over her. “Now look here, Sir P. I am doing MY job, you can do your job and leave me alone and maybe we can get some work done around here!” And she walked off in a huff.

Mr. Construction Worker breathed a sigh and said to Himself, “When will my tools quit focussing on what each other is doing wrong and just try looking to me to use them to build this Church?” He looked over at rusty Mr. Hammer, sad to see his wounds and carefully he dusted him off. Mr. Hammer was consoled and went in search of a new place to serve. Just down the street he found a great little place with a sign out front: “Noise welcome here!” “This is just the place for me!” thought Mr. Hammer and in he walked. Sure enough, milling about in the narthex were plenty of other hammers just like himself. There was no paint anywhere and splinters abounded on the pews, but no nails stuck out and everyone was busy pounding! “Welcome to hammer Church” said a deacon. “We’re all about noise and hammering here! We’re so glad you’ve come. I’m sure you’ll feel very at home here.” And he did.

Back at ToolBox Church Mrs. Sandpaper was getting frustrated. She started chatting to one of her neighbours over the fence and found out about their church. “Oh I just love our Church,” boasted Sally Smallgrain. “There are so few rough patches and we don’t have to sand all day the way we did in our old Church. Most of us are different varieties of sandpaper and we all get along so well.” Mrs. Sandpaper thought she’d give her neighbours’ church a try. Sure enough, Smooth Going Fellowship turned out to be just right for Mrs. Sandpaper. There was no paint there and nails stuck out everywhere. But not a splinter in sight! Mrs. Sandpaper was very comfortable in her new Church. Sure, she missed the variety of ToolBox Church but figured it was just unrealistic to expect all those different tools to come together without fighting. “I guess this is just the way it has to be,” she sighed.

As ToolBox Church dwindled Mr. Construction Worker became more and more concerned. He decided to tweak Level with some ideas and see if that might induce change. Level came to the overseer (otherwise known as the Clasp – it kept the Box contained) and said, “I’ve noticed we have some nails sticking out and some splinters forming. I wonder if I could perhaps bang myself on the nails to keep them in place.” The Clasp gasped in dismay. “But you were not made to do that, and in our blueprints we have no instructions about Levels’ doing such things. We don’t see this as a good fit for you. Just keep doing what you’re doing. It’s the way we’ve always done things.”

As Level walked away with a glum look on his face he bumped into Mr. Screwdriver. “Hey, why are you so down today?” said Mr. Screwdriver. Level shared his recent experience with the Clasp and Screwdriver, wisely, but with dismay, replied: “I realise that Clasp is looking out for your best interest. Do you know what would happen to your usefulness as a Level if you damaged your bubble? But, their response to you is disturbing – that they would push you aside so quickly and without ongoing dialogue.” “I’m not sure what to do next,” said Level. “I wonder if Construction Worker has a different Box for me to be used in,” said Level. “But then it’ll just be me and Mr. Paintbrush!” said Mr. Screwdriver.

As time passed it seemed every tool that crossed paths with Mr. Paintbrush and Clasp had their usefulness squelched or their ideas tossed. Toolbox Church became a lifeless, but beautiful structure. Paintbrush tried to cover up everything. Any nail that stuck out he’d cover with a new layer of paint. Any splinters? A little paint helped keep those down. All in all, Mr. P and Clasp felt very smug and self-satisfied, even though Mr. Construction Worker was finding it difficult to use Toolbox Church for anything but a negative example for others not to follow. Construction Worker was sad that His tools could not work together and ended up in places full of others just like themselves. His own mansion in the sky functioned beautifully, perfectly with each retired tool serving in its own way. Diversity was everywhere in His Mansion – and it was joyfully celebrated.

It is a sad story, but true, since ToolBox Church eventually closed down. Clasp ended up a bitter old man who refused to fellowship anywhere else. Paintbrush meanwhile spent the rest of his days painting at home and remembering the ‘good ol’ days.’ Unfortunately in his memories he didn’t recall the loud hammering, or the times he had to paint over a freshly sanded spot. His memories were coloured by his own opinion of how things should be. And His memories failed to center on Mr. Construction Worker Whose hand held and used each tool for His purposes.

Mr. Construction Worker grieved to see His little ToolBox Church close its doors. But He did continue to use those tools that were willing – Mrs. Sandpaper introduced the idea of diversity to her new Church. And Hammer eventually realised the need for a paintbrush or two and recruited some – in hopes that there were those out there who could tolerate the noise of the hammers. Those Churches that initially had formed from their commonalities eventually had to adapt or shut down. They could not exist without the cooperative efforts of a variety of tools. And Mr. Construction Worker was pleased with the progress He saw in His tools and ToolBoxes.

The End.

4 comments:

  1. ah, this is great!!! Thanks so much for posting!

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  2. Sarah, did you write this story? That's just how we all do it WAY too often!

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  3. Yes, I wrote it - that's why it's on my blog. Otherwise I'll put 'anonymous' or cite the authour.

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  4. A wonderful modern parable. A good tool for self-assessment. Thanks, Sarah.

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