And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. They immediately left their nets and followed Him.”
Ever since Dale and I moved to Hopkinton, New Hampshire, I have been working down in the cellar of our home when I have some time. My woodworking shop has always been a significant place in my life and my days.
It began so many years ago, my love of carpentry, in Melrose, Massachusetts on Morgan Street where I grew up, and my father taught me about the different tools in his shop. The first tool I remember my dad giving to me was a coping saw. As I attempted to build a house for our rabbit, a coping saw was required to cut out the windows. At first, I was very excited for I believed my father was purchasing a motorized jigsaw for me. Not so – the coping saw you had to power yourself. I did build the rabbit house though, and eventually, my father allowed me to use the jigsaw or what we call today – a scroll saw.
My space in our new home is more limited than in our past home in Attleboro so I have had to make wheeled frames, or dollies, to be able to push my table saw and planer, etc. out of the way while using some of the other tools. This meant that I had to dissemble some of the tool frames I had previously needed. It was not an easy task. As a matter of truth, it was a task that was difficult and needed to be done with a lot of patience. I cannot speak for you, but I know for me, patience can be lacking when I am frustrated with a project.
On my knees, which were aching, I attempted to remove some small bolts from under the sanding machine. The bolt and the nut kept twisting – trying my patience. Then when I attempted to bolt the sanding machine to the new wooden dolly, I kept dropping the nut or the bolt kept turning. This pastor was not what we would call “a happy camper.” However, it brought to mind a mechanic I worked with when I was in college. His name was Smitty.
While in seminary in Boston, I worked in a wool warehouse in Cambridge. In that warehouse, wool, rayon, or orlon would be processed and sent off to the mills that needed those materials to make clothing or blankets. Smitty was in charge of the machinery, and I was so impressed with his skill. He could make a machine run at exactly the right speed so that the strands made of fibers did not pull apart as they went from conveyer to machine. Sometimes to keep everything running smoothly, he would use cardboard or sometimes even baling wire. He could make machinery do just what he desired it to do; even though at times it seemed to have had a will of its own. He was the most patient man I had ever seen or worked with. I watched him drop a small bolt, like the one I was working with the other day, more than two dozen times, and he would just pick it up and try again to tighten the small nut and bolt. But I have not really told you about the man I admire to this day. Smitty was severely handicapped.
Smitty had no left hand – only a stump, and his right hand had only a thumb and one finger. He would press the bolt where his missing hand should have been, and then with his thumb and one finger, he would turn the nut. He dropped that nut time and time again and would just reach down, and pick it up, and try again and again.
I do not know if you have ever seen a carding machine, but it is a machine with revolving drums that go against each other. The carding machine tore the wool into fine fibers that could be turned into yarn. The carding machines are brutal cutting and tearing machines. There is an old, very small model at Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. The carding machines of today are huge motorized machines.
Smitty was working above one of those machines when a rope caught his leg and pulled him on top of the carding machine where it tore his body asunder. He spent well over a year in the hospital before he could go home. What a brave and persistent man. He never gave up.
On the day I saw him drop a nut a dozen or more times, I said to him that by now I would have kicked that machine across the room. He looked at me with a smile and told me it was just a machine and one just had to have patience. How much I wanted to help him, but I did not; I knew he would not want me to and then he succeeded by himself in his task.
Down in my shop the other day, I had patience because Smitty taught me the meaning of patience. It took time but finally the nut and the bolt under my sanding machine were tightened in place. And Smitty was right there with me smiling at my persistence.
Jesus our Lord knew that if we were to be Christians who wished to share our faith with others, we had to be patient. When he chose followers, he chose fishermen. One commentary states that seven of the twelve were fishermen. A fisherman or fisherperson has to be patient because to catch a fish can take a long time, and it can be discouraging if one is not patient.
How patient are we in our lives? Are we patient with our family members; are we patient in trying to help some person who needs to find God in his or her life? We may fail again and again, but with patience, we can lock the nut and the bolt; we can help one another find the joy of knowing our Lord. Patience – patience – the Smitty kind of patience.
“ And now may the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other.”
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