Part of my writing process is to challenge myself, especially if I am having writer’s block. I scroll through pictures looking for inspiration. Sometimes when I look at a picture I see a story. This is one of those. The picture of the barn was the inspiration for it. Once I started, the story wrote itself. It is several years old…but I thought worth reposting in this season of uncertainty.
A Man arrived at an old barn in his faded jeans and flannel shirt. His kind eyes were piercing. His smile, quick to surface. He had a purposeful gait, but was not in a hurry. As he stepped into the barn, he waited a moment for his eyes to adjust to the dim light. The owner caught up to him, as he perused the junk within.
“May I help you find something, sir?” asked the owner.
“No, thanks. I will know it when I see it,” replied the man.
He continued his quest, stopping to look at each piece as if it were the only one. He slid his hands across desks to feel the grain of the wood. He pulled the drawers of dressers out to see if they were stuck. Wardrobes were opened and closed and opened again. His eyes scoured the wood for imperfections, but also for character. He made mental notes of the scratches and chips as well as the richness of the grain.
The owner of the barn grew uncomfortable with the man’s attention to detail. It was obvious he knew furniture, and even more so that he was familiar with each type of wood. The man rubbed an old trunk with a cloth he had in his pocket, as if to polish it, when the owner spoke up with a sneer.
“Sir, I must insist that you not do that. It makes the old furniture look new and folks come here for antiques. Now, what can I help you find?”
“I am merely looking at the potential of each piece by removing the grime and dirt,” answered the man.
“Ah, so you refinish furniture then? I have just the piece for you, sir. What about this old dresser here? Isn’t she a beaut? Of course, being in a barn with the humidity the drawers are stuck closed, but they would do better if it were inside a climate-controlled house,” said the owner.
The man gazed at the piece. He noted the wood and the sticky drawers. The hardware was missing, so there was no way to get into them. He smiled at the smooth talking owner.
“Not refinishing exactly, I prefer to think of it as repurposing…taking an old beat up piece and giving it a new purpose,” then he continued, “It would take more than moving this inside to get the drawers to open. This is quite a project.”
“Is it beyond your ability, sir? I am sorry. I have some easier items to deal with which do not require such work. I pegged you as a carpenter with great skill by the way you were looking at each piece.” Moving deeper into the barn, The owner pointed out a bookshelf against the back wall. Brushing the cobwebs from it, he told the man, “This requires a simple sanding and a coat of paint.”
“How would you know? You do not repurpose furniture; you merely sit it in here to decay. And why would I paint that beautiful wood?” asked the man.
“Well, sir that just shows what you know,” The now irritated owner said. “This shelf has scrapes and scratches in it which need to be covered over. Paint is the way to make it look like new. You can see I am right by the layers already on it. Obviously, I am not the only one who paints to improve a piece.”
The man just shook his head, refusing to argue with the owner. Instead he replied, “No. This is not the piece I am looking for today.”
His eyes caught a glimpse of a shadow in the corner of the barn, but as he moved towards it, The owner jumped in front of him and said, “Sir, allow me to show you another piece.”
Undeterred, the man continued to move towards the shadow, his piercing eyes fixed upon it. The owner chattered incessantly, trying every technique to dissuade him from his path. Once standing in the shadow, The man saw the item was covered with a tarp.
“What is under this tarp?” he asked.
“Nothing sir. I have many more items for you to look at. A man such as yourself cannot be bothered with a project such as that. It is too much for you,” The owner stated.
“I beg to differ, there is no project that is too much for me,” said the man. As he pulled back the tarp, dust flew in a million directions. “This is the piece I have been seeking. It is perfect for what I need.”
Incredulous, the owner replied, “Sir, how can that be? It is just a pile of wood. It is completely undone. Nothing much to look at, and even less useful.”
“In its present condition it is true. But I see beyond the mess. This is exactly what I am looking for. I’ll take it!” proclaimed the man.
“But wouldn’t you like something better suited for you? This is so much work. It will take all of your efforts to repurpose this one,” whined the owner.
“I determine what I am willing to give, not you. I will do whatever is necessary to complete this project.” The man picked up the shabby pieces of wood. He headed towards the door, but the owner blocked his way.
“Sir, I cannot let you have that piece.”
“Step aside. This piece belongs to me. I do not care the condition, or the amount of work required. I will be taking it with me. It is already paid for, as is every piece in this barn. Do not stand in my way, or you will regret it,” the man said with fire in his eyes.
Swallowing hard, The owner stepped aside as the man carried the wood into the blinding light of the day. He dared not step out into the light, instead he stepped back into the dim barn, sliding the door closed with a bang.
When the man got the piece to his workshop he opened the doors and windows to let in the fresh air and sunshine. He began to look over each section of wood. It was true that the piece was a mess. The dust alone was enough to make the shafts of light dance, as it floated down to the floor. Pulling each plank of lumber into his hands, the man carefully examined it for blemishes. He was not intimidated by what he found. He took a washcloth with warm water and began rubbing. When the water in the bucket got too dirty, he simply refilled it with fresh and continued bathing. Once he finished, he stood back to determine just how to proceed. The wood had layers and layers of paint that was chipped and scratched. It was in rough shape.
“It’s going to have to come off,” he said to no one in particular. He knew to pull out the true beauty of the wood he would have to strip it all the way down until it was completely unfinished. He began the work of stripping all the old layers off. It was an arduous process, which took days to complete, but he was not once discouraged. He even hummed as he worked, because he knew what it would look like in the end. The scraping created a bigger mess than it was the beginning. Each layer seemed to cling to the wood, refusing to let go. Each time, he used force to scrape away the dross. His hands blistered, but he continued in his pursuit.
Once the layers were gone, he smiled and whispered, “That’s much better. Now you can breathe again.”
“Talking to your wood, again?” asked a voice.
“Ha, ha, yes, Father, you caught me talking to the wood, again,” said the man.
“This piece has kept you busy, but I think it is going to be worth the effort, don’t you agree?” asked the father.
“Yes, I do believe it will be worth it, in the end,” smiled the man.
The father gazed at his son and looked deeply into his eyes. “You’re sure you want to finish it?”
“I have never been more sure, Father,” stated the man.
“Good. Let’s get on with it then. Let the sanding begin!”
The two of them began, the man using everything the father had taught him. The father was happy to be working together on this project. The rough paper created dust as it scratched and ground the wood into powder. The two worked together side by side, for hours on this piece. The man ignored the splinters which found their way into his hands. He continued to work into the night, refusing sleep. The father smiled gently as he left the man to finish his work.
Each board was handled separately three or more times, from rough to fine, until it was smooth as silk. Another bath to wash off the dust, and it was ready for the next step. The first coat of stain was wiped on with great care. Lovingly even. Each piece was checked and rechecked for complete coverage. Even though The Man was exhausted from his work, he still paid very close attention to details, while humming a slow haunting tune to himself.
As he reassembled the piece carefully, his hands were bleeding. Each plank was like the piece of a puzzle and had to be put in a particular place. Each nail was pounded in a specific way. Drops of sweat covered his face while he worked. It was a grueling process, and a stranger might have wondered if the pounding was ruining the work. However, there was no stranger watching; the man was all alone. He knew, without the nails the whole thing would fall apart. No, the pounding of the nails was essential to the finished work. Finally, when it was ready for the final coat of stain he stood back, smiled, and cut off the light.
In the morning, the father came into the workshop. Alone. He carried a bucket of stain with him. He opened the workshop door with a solemn look upon his face. He gently rubbed his hand over the work of his son and a soft smile curled his lips slightly.
“That boy. He sure knew what he was doing. This is going to be spectacular. His best work yet.” he said to no one in particular.
The father dipped a cloth into the stain, and allowed it to become saturated. He placed it on the piece, and the crimson tint soaked into the wood like a sponge. Each dip into the bucket brought a deeper red color which he rubbed into each board. As he worked, The father grew more and more sorrowful. Before long, his tears were mixing with the stain as he cried. The circular rubbing motion spread the tear-filled red tinge to every grain in the wood, it covered every pound mark and every nick. Every place he put his hand was filled with crimson, and he continued to work until the entire piece was completely covered and the bucket was empty. Poured out. The father stood back and wept. The beauty was unsurpassed. The man was a master craftsman who had created a masterpiece. The father was in awe. At dusk, he opened the doors and windows wide so The wind could come in and seal the stain.
When darkness fell, it was finished.
At dawn, the father rushed to the workshop to see the completed work. He stopped in his tracks. Never had he been so glad to see his son, who was carefully polishing the wood. The man embraced his father in a bear hug. The two stood there, until the wind blew them apart with a gentle breeze. They circled the finished work, admiring the sheen.
“I can see your reflection,” said the father.
“That was the plan,” replied the man.
Looking at the scars of the man, the father asked, “Was it worth it?”
“Absolutely. Just look at the result! A masterpiece. It takes my breath away,” beamed the man.
“Shall we send the invitations then?” asked the father.
“Yes, Father. Let’s prepare the table!”
With that, they carried the table out into the garden among the trees and flowers. It stood within an open-air glass gazebo in the center of the garden. When the sunlight hit the table, it nearly glowed. The warm crimson color was rich and full and deep. It was ablaze with a luminous radiance that made the man burst into laughter with great joyfulness. The garden erupted in song as the birds danced on the wind, which encircled the table. As a centerpiece, the man set a loaf of bread torn into bite sized pieces, and a cup of wine.
“Where is the rest? If there is to be a wedding, we need a feast!” proclaimed the father.
The man smiled and said, “Consider this the appetizer. The main course is yet to come!”
Oh my Beloved, Do not think you are worthless, set aside, and abandoned in the dark corners of your life. You cannot be hidden from me under a tarp in darkness. On the contrary. You are seen. You are loved. You have great purpose. You do not belong in the barn, do not let the owner convince you otherwise. (He is not really the owner…his real name is the deceiver, and he does not truly own anything! ) You are bought and paid for. I bathe you in my word to remove the ilk that has covered you. I disassemble you in order to see you better, so the healing will be complete. I scrub down through the layers peeling away each one, removing the old colors that were so unbecoming. Beloved, there is no need to hide them with another layer, when I can remove them altogether.
The sanding of your life takes time. The roughness of the grit smooths out the gouges and scrapes, and it hurts. Each successive rubbing feels less intense though, and the resulting dust is evidence of your progress in the process. What remains is a life which is raw and real, and covered in dust. I wash you in my word to remove the vestiges of the old wounds and scars. It feels refreshing to be clean, unencumbered and beautiful, but I am not finished. You will be a masterpiece when I am done, because I always finish what I start.
I will cover you with a protective coating before I begin to reassemble your life. The pounding seems harsh, I know. It seems as if it will never end, and as the nails go in you feel as if you are being crucified…because you are. But without the nails you will fall apart. Without the nails, you remain in pieces. The nails are the key to holding you together. I do not take this step lightly. Brokenness is never easy, but it is necessary. It causes me pain to think you might not understand the necessity of such work. I sweat more with each nail inserted, but I want you to know each one is important to your purpose. I do not add them frivolously or needlessly.
Once you are reassembled, the father stains you with my blood. I was happy to give it up for you, my love, so that all the richness of your life could be displayed. You are worth every drop. The father covers each piece one by one, saturating your life. The result is depth and fullness. Restoration and renewal. Hope and healing. The wind of the Spirit seals the work, by breathing on you. As the wind blows, the sheen on your life increases. Soon my reflection is clear in the finish, and it serves as an invitation to others around you.
Do you not believe I can repurpose your mess into beauty? Give you beauty for ashes? It is my specialty to locate messes and create masterpieces out of them. Masterpieces which draw others to come and enter into communion, as well. Then communion gives birth to community and my bride grows in beauty. Right now, you may doubt I can do this for you, or that I will. You do not think yourself worthy of such artistry, but I disagree. I know your worth, Beloved, even if you do not. I say you are worth every drop of my blood, sweat, and tears. You are worth the cross and the tomb. You are worth resurrecting! Because resurrection is simply death…repurposed.
2 thoughts on “A Story”
WHEW! This is the most beautiful story ever from you. Thank you, Michelle. Of course it is easy to understand why you felt that the story wrote itself. However, it needed a channel in order to reach us. THANK YOU. – luv, mary
Thanks…I just love this one. I love it when it feels like I am taking dictation. 😉