Raising the Grain

Hi there!   How are y’all today?  Hopefully everything is fine and dandy.  After all, it’s spring!  Last time I even talked about my beloved (outdoor!) blacksnake.  Grab a glass of something refreshing.  It’s warm here today, in spite of being overcast with intermittent showers.  But the yard looks the best ever…  there’s actually more grass than weed this spring.  Go lawn care service! 

Watching my blacksnake working to shed his skin made me look at a part of my deck more closely.  I have 6×6 corner posts, with little decorative notches cut out around them about 4″ down from the top.  My deck is about 10 years old, so those cuts have seen some weather here in Kansas.  They’ve been soaked, scorched, frozen.  All that weathering has done its job; and it’s raised the grain of the wood so it’s quite rough in those spots.  I imagine it would be fairly easy to get a nasty splinter from those places.

In woodworking, usually one doesn’t want the grain raised.  We go to some lengths to fill it, sand it, seal it, sand it some more and try to make things very smooth and silky to the touch.  We wax it and buff it and all sorts of things to keep it that way.  Sometimes we must do some fairly intensive maintenance to keep the grain smooth.  And so it is in our lives.

In Psalm 139:23-24, it says:

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any wicked way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting!

Have you ever prayed this Psalm?  Or sung the old hymn, “Cleanse Me” from these verses?

The hymn goes like this:

Search me, O God, and know my heart today
    Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts I pray
See if there be some wicked way in me,
   Cleanse me from every sin and set me free.

Did you mean it?  And what did God do in response?  Did He indeed “try you” to “know your thoughts” and see if there was “any wicked way”?  Our true character, our grain, if you will, is most clearly seen in the ‘weather’ of adversity.

Think about your day yesterday.  Did you lose your temper in the heat of provocation?  Did you give in to a storm of temptation?  Did you ‘freeze’ and fail to do something you knew you should have done?  These are all places we can see our ‘grain’ as it is ‘raised’.  Road rage, or even simple anger while driving, can show selfishness and lack of love, or lack of patience.  Did some minor irritation, like oh, waiting in a long line at the store, cause you to lose your joy?  Or what about waiting ‘forever’ in a doctor’s office?  What is your first response when you don’t get your own way?  Or when you lose something?  Or if you spill something?  Do you swear impatiently?  Or do you maintain your calm and your joy?

Things will happen to us every day that have the capability of raising the grain of our character.  We have two choices when those things happen.  We can respond in exasperation or impatience or anger.   Or we can recognize the character test and choose to remain Christlike and keep our joy.  What do we do when we blow it?  When we lash out verbally from inside our car at the ‘jerk’ who just cut us off in traffic?  We recognize it, and take it to Jesus.  We can choose to look and see why we responded that way.  Then we can choose to ask Jesus to forgive us and help us do better.  We can choose to pray for the one who offended us with their lack of traffic sensitivity.

Often, I hear (and have made!) the excuse, “I’m just so tired.  I can’t help it.”  Tired is a great grain-raiser!  It puts us inescapably in the crucible of exposing what’s really in our hearts, when we don’t have the energy to keep the filter in place.  We can give some nasty splinters to the people around us when we’re tired.  When we see what we really are, that’s the time – right then – to take it to Jesus.  Let Him heal it, let Him forgive it, let Him re-form you so that you are different the next time.

So, how’s your ‘grain’?  Is the Master Carpenter working to smooth off your rough edges?  Do you need a little help with it all?  I encourage you to find a pastor or priest.  They can always help you weather the storms while you allow Jesus to smooth out you grain.  He wants to make something truly beautiful from your life!

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