The tools God uses

The problem with shopping at home improvement warehouses is that generally, you go to them when something is broken. There is a certain desperation that carries you through those doors and into the sea of long and poorly marked aisles of unreachable shelves. It’s enough to make me seasick.

I hate having to go to places like Home Depot, so much so, that I even call it “The Despot.” The reason is that it seems no matter what I need or what they have in stock, it takes forever for me to find it. I never seem to have enough information. Like, did I need the screws to be slotted or not? Should they be stainless steel, or not? Will the new self-fastening fastener or adjustable fit bolt do the job?

Those endless aisles of bin after bin drive me crazy. Who knew there were so many sizes and shapes for things like nuts and bolts and screws? Not even Edison could imagine the array of light bulbs on the shelves, let alone the variety of wattage, shapes, sizes, technology and even colors they come in. And it seems too, that after staring at signs and tags for 20 minutes, I finally find that the bin I’ve been looking for is empty.

My mother did a good job of drilling into my head the concept of the proper use of things. In order to fix something, you need the right materials and tools. But over the years, I’ve discovered that it ain’t necessarily so when it comes to the spiritual life. That is because the work of faith doesn’t belong to us, but to God.

I have seen the most boring preachers, the most lackluster liturgies, and the least inspired presentations change hearts and lives. Things I’ve considered a waste of my time, styles that don’t appeal to me in the least, and content that was not at all relevant to where I was at the time, have had tremendous impact on others. On the other hand, I have witnessed--and even participated in--some very well-prepared events that have fallen flat, and accomplished precious little. God can, and does, use everything and anything--as long as it is placed into his hands. He never wrestles something we are doing away from us. But rather, he waits patiently for us to give it over to him. In other words, God waits for us to allow him to work.

I shouldn’t be surprised that God uses things I don’t care for. That is because the spiritual life has never been about personal tastes and preferences (no, not even mine!) but about God’s transforming glory. God will use anything we place in his hands. For him, our sins, disappointments, and weaknesses are every bit as effective as our sacrifices, dreams, and talents. In his hands, all things become transformed and transformative. Hurts become pathways of compassion and healing. Talents give us a means to glorify God by becoming part of something larger than just ourselves.

As we approach the days in which celebrate the paschal mystery of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it might help to recall that the instruments of our salvation were tools of torture. The hammer and nails that soldiers used to hang the Son of God on a cross and hold him there, God used to build the community of disciples we now call “Church.” Ultimately, we’re better off not judging the tools God uses, but rather the work the Master Craftsman creates with them. For the genius of an artist never lies in his brushes or chisels, but in his hands.

Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an author, speaker, musician and serves as Faith Formation Coordinator at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Lynnfield.