Theology and tools

tools theology

I’ve never been a garage-full-of-tools kind of guy. In fact, I’ve hardly ever owned tools in my life. In my experience many men tend to gravitate into one of two directions. Those that like to create and build physical, tangible things with their hands. Or those who like to create and build ideas and systems that are not physical. I definitely belong to the latter group. It has always made me feel out of place with the standard Russian guy, who is usually very skilled in building houses and fixing cars, using more tools than I knew existed.

I did and do try to learn. In my late teenage years and early adulthood, I’ve worked for a year installing siding. I was on a team that built a house from the ground up. I’ve mounted drywall, created wall frames, installed trim work, and even laid down a few tile floors and showers. But all of that was always a last resort to earn money while being a poor, broke, college student.

Much of that changed when I bought my own condo and began the very first remodel project for myself. For the first time, I wasn’t working to scrape up a miniscule salary, but to recreate a small part of the world for my wife and I. Since then I have begun to see how yet again, in every area of life, there are echoes and reverberations of the Gospel. Our human tools too can preach.

THE WORLD IS NOT IDEAL

The world we live in is not good, though at one point it was (Gen 1:31). Once upon a time, there was no wrong, no sin, no shame, no fear, no danger, no desperation, no brokenness. The world was safe and comfortable; it was a blissful Eden, vibrating with tranquility and sparkling with purity. The earth was filled with vivacious beauty, like a tantalizing watercolor painting. Everything was perfect, teeming with serenity.

But now it’s broken. Filled with pain and horrors unimaginable. We are oppressed, perplexed, troubled, and surrounded by the devastating sting of death. Everything is against us. We long for that Eden, where all is bursting with transcending peace, Shalom. Then our dreams abruptly end, we are rudely awakened and cast back into the grey monotone of brokenness and death around us.

Deep within our souls is a desire for a place unlike our world. A place where everything is right. A place where nothing is broken, and everything is fixed. A place where we belong.

WE RESHAPE OUR WORLD, LONGING FOR HOME

This is where a simple toolbox preaches the Gospel. Tools can demolish, bring destruction, and keep the world broken. But they can also fix, create, and restore. With tools we take the broken, disjointed, degenerated world, and bring it to harmony, renewal  and order. With tools we take what is damaged, and we repair it. We take what is bad and make it good. Where there is bitter cold that rages against our frail human body, we use tools to build a furnace, and create a warm fire whose friendly glow heals our miserable trembling flesh. Where there is danger, from wild animals or fallen people, we build walls, doors and locks. These give us a small vision of safety. Within our walls, we see a little reflection of heaven. We are safe and protected from harm, just as we were in Eden. We see a glimpse of that enchanted Eden that we remember is our true home.

THE TOOLS THAT FIXED THE WORLD

In the depths of our souls, we are longing for everything that is broken to be fixed. We are longing for tools that can repair everything but know we can’t fix the world ourselves. It would be like a madman with a teaspoon, pouring water overboard to save the Titanic. But there is one who can.

Perhaps this is why in his earthly time Jesus was a carpenter. Tools exist to fix the world. He came to fix the world; indeed he has already started. In the most inscrutable display of glorious irony the Carpenter who made the world without tools, was crushed with human tools. That hammer and nails were created by humans to try to fix the world, and did just that by breaking the Maker of the world. And soon this ultimate Carpenter will come back and finish the job. The world will be fixed.

So in the here and now, as your hammer sings with each blow, remember that you know its song. Listen for the small sparkle of hope, see the nostalgic vision of serenity, and remember that faint spark of eternity.

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