A Favourite Hammer?
Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Isaiah 64:8 (NIVUK)
When I was very young I used to spend my days at my grandparents’ house while my parents were at work. I loved it, because most of my time there would be spent outside in my grandfather’s workshop. He taught me how to use various tools and make little wooden things from the offcuts of his far greater and more intricate projects (like aptly named grandfather clocks, dining room sets, and other beautiful furniture). He even made me my own miniature workbench with its own drawers for my own tools and a little vise.
However, I liked using the tools that he used more than using my own. I remember once using (and by “using” I mean “playing with”) one of his hammers; the only one small enough for me to pick up and use without losing any fingers or toes. It must have been his favourite hammer, because it was the best used one of the lot.
After a while he asked me if I knew where his hammer was. He needed that specific one for a specific job he had to do. We looked around everywhere: inside my workbench drawers, under the table, on top of shelves, inside all of his tool boxes, even on the little patch of grass where I was playing earlier. It was nowhere to be found, so he had to use a bigger hammer (with great skill I might add) to finish the piece he was working on.
I often wonder whether we (Christians) see ourselves as merely a sometimes-useful tool in God’s hands. If we, for whatever reason, are not where we’re supposed to be, God can easily pick up another tool and use that to finish the job. Or if we are not suitable for a certain job, God can put us into his giant tool box (made of stone and mortar, adorned with stained glass windows, a pulpit and sometimes a spire or two) until we’re useful again.
And I think that is wrong. I don’t think God sees us as mere tools to be used whenever needed. I’ve heard prayers prayed and sermons delivered that are born from that view (I have prayed those prayers and delivered those sermons myself!) - the view that we are here to work for the Lord and nothing more.
But Jesus made it quite clear that we are, indeed, more than just tools in a carpenter’s hands. We are deeply loved children. We are fellow heirs with Jesus. We are family.
I love the image of clay in the potter’s hand Isaiah uses. It speaks of love and care in creating the pottery. Yes, it is made for a purpose and it will become useful in the future, but it all starts with the potter’s love. Without the love and care of the potter, the product will be useless. C.S. Lewis writes in his brilliant book Mere Christianity:
“The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.”
It’s a different outlook on our relationship with God altogether. We are loved first and foremost, we are useful in his kingdom as a result. And the irony is that we will probably be more useful in his kingdom if we realise that we are loved instead of feeling pressured to be useful.
My grandfather and I found his hammer later that afternoon. It was under a bucket where I hid it while “using” it and forgot about it. I could tell my grandfather was happy to find his favourite hammer again, but I was never in any doubt that he loved me more than he loved that (or any) tool.
Lord Jesus, thank you for your love expressed on the cross and for your redeeming victory on the third day. May I always remember that I am loved first, and because of that, may I be useful in your hands. Amen.
Photo by SwapnIl Dwivedi on Unsplash