Carved by the Creator

Amongst the many varieties of trees on my native BC coast, my favorite is the arbutus, Canada’s only native broad-leafed evergreen tree. A coastal carver once gave me two spoons he fashioned from arbutus wood. I treasure them for their beautiful amber-red grain and silken texture. He told me the best carving material comes from the most rugged of the trees because they create the densest wood in their fight to survive the harsh climate and tough terrain, growing mostly on craggy bluffs and heights. Carvers seek after the wood of a dying arbutus tree where the main trunk will open and expose the heartwood center, dense and rich in variegated red and brown grains.
Those carved spoons remind me of myself and the work God is doing in me. It takes much refining to shape this wilful heart of mine into a beautiful useful tool for the King. Arbutus trees grow in wild, twisted shapes and are not easily domesticated outside their native habitat. So was my heart before God tempered it by His Spirit; bent towards sin and selfish desires, not easily tamed to obedience. I was dying in my wild state, my life split by suffering, my heart exposed to the enemy who wanted to destroy me. God sought me in that state, knowing the best tools, the most beautiful carvings, can only be shaped from a dying heart. How like God to see value in death, like a woodcarver seeing potential beauty in a dying tree.
Tucked away in the thirteenth chapter of Nehemiah there is a short phrase with big impact. When the exiled Israelites returned to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, they discovered the Book of the Law of Moses excluded foreigners from the land who mistreated the Israelites and called on their pagan god to curse them. Nehemiah makes the comment, “Our God, however, turned the curse into a blessing.” (Nehemiah 13:2 NIV)
That phrase has lodged itself in my mind and spirit. Through Christ, God has turned the curse of death into a blessing; not only physical death leading to eternal life with Him, but death of self resulting in my life reshaped into a blessing to honour Him. But it does not happen overnight or without pain.
In a broken, dying tree a carver sees potential for beauty and usefulness but first he has to harvest the rough wood and cut it to a workable size. Then he studies the grain, determines the density, looking for unique qualities in the wood before carving begins. The carver who made my spoons says each arbutus tree or branch is a mystery. When you first cut into it, you always wonder what color and texture you will discover inside.
My potential beauty and usefulness is not a mystery to God. He already knows how much cutting and carving, sanding and smoothing is required to turn me into an instrument fit to be used by Him. I believe some of that carving has been done already, as I look back on the trials He has brought me through and the things I have learned about Him in the midst. But there are still some rough patches to be sanded smooth.
When the carver made my spoons, he followed the unique grains and distinctive knots in each piece of wood. He knew to go against the grain would result in damage and the wood would not be useful for anything. I am thankful God knows my “grain”, because He created me. He knows how I am bent and has a specific purpose for my life. I want to be fashioned after my arbutus spoons, beautiful and useful to God.

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2 thoughts on “Carved by the Creator

  1. Lovely and inspiring post! It is a comfort that “God knows my grain” that well. I, too, love the arbutus and was excited to discover one at our new place. It offers beauty all year long. When it loses it’s outer “skin”, in flakes, I like to pick up and examine them, as they are each unique – like us!
    Blessings ~ Wendy

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