Last Saturday was our big Clean-up Day at our church. Being on Property Committee, it’s part of my job to figure out the jobs that need to be done. Our building is some 80 years old, and although well-constructed and maintained, there’s always something that needs doing. If you’ve ever owned an old house, you know what I mean.
I generally handle the ‘inside’ stuff (including all technical matters), while our other Property member handles the ‘outside’ stuff. God had been tapping on my shoulder about the wear surfaces on all our wood in the Sanctuary: I got to looking at it, and yep, it all needed a good coat of wax. It’d probably been years and years.
All week I’d been meaning to get to the local ‘really good hardware store’ in town to get a can of the right kind of wax. I knew exactly what to get: it’s the stuff that works a lot like car wax, but it’s tough enough to use on floors. I wasn’t sure if it’s still produced, but I had to go and try. But all week, one thing and another had kept me from getting to the local ‘really good hardware store’ in town to get this stuff. And Saturday night came without getting it, and I stood up from my chair in panic… How was I to get this necessary job done without paste wax…?
Part of this story is a short sub-plot about how God works stuff out, and here it is:
About 25 years ago, we had a house with hardwood floors. They had got to looking terrible, and no amount of washing or attempting to clean them was working. They needed a coat of wax. Good Johnson’s Wax, in the yellow can. The stuff that once it hazes up, you’d better get it buffed quick, because if you don’t, it gets hard as heck, and is almost impossible to get the haze off! This stuff:
I’d gone to a good hardware store, bought a can of it for the floors (it was expensive!), and while on the way home, my wife had meanwhile decided that we needed to get the floors redone. She called a floor-finishing guy that same day. I’m just too cheap to throw a $25 can of wax out, so the can went on the shelf, the floor finishing guy came in and put a gorgeous gym floor finish on the floors, and we sold that house with beautiful shiny floors. (If you ever want to have your floors refinished and want a sparkling-shiny finish that’s durable, look into a gym floor finish.)
So here we are, some 25 years later. I’m in a panic, because I don’t have the Number One Thing necessary to do my list. That can of wax is long-forgotten, along with a can of Fuller Brass Polish, in a tote on the top shelf of the cabinet. My wife looked at me, thought for a second, and said, “Don’t we have a brand-new can of wax up in the laundry cupboard?”
I went to look, and sure enough, it was there, still waiting to be used.
Dusty, but hey, that doesn’t change the product inside. Tentatively, I popped the lid, not sure of what I’d find. Rusty inside? Dried-up crumbled, useless chunks?
But it was still good! …It smelled just like I remembered.
Okay, so all I can tell you is that this just has to be something that God had worked out: I’d need THIS can of wax for this weekend. I gratefully placed it in my rigger’s bag, along with other supplies. So armed with all this stuff plus about two dozen cloths – some for applying, some for de-hazing, some for buffing, I went down to the church on Saturday morning.
I showed up at about twenty after eight, said ‘hi’ to the other Property guy and chatted a minute, then went inside to unpack all my stuff and get started on the pew backs and sides. I had a big long list of things needing to be done, starting with waxing and polishing all these wooden wear surfaces, and included cleaning out shelves, polishing brass candlesticks, polishing fixtures, and such. I was hoping for at least two kids to help; that way we’d get done by about three in the afternoon.
I kept looking at my watch; 09:00 came and went, and I was still applying, de-hazing, and buffing by myself.
09:15. Nobody about. A short sigh, and set back to work. Three pews done – at this rate I’d be done by about seven in the evening… (“Oh God, send us workers for the harvest!”)
And moments later, WHAT an answer to prayer: At 09:20, in walk SIX of our young people, bright-eyed and ready to go! This is twice as many kids volunteering for ‘inside work’ as I’ve ever had!
I explained the list of jobs we had to do, but first we needed to do this polishing work.
It was truly heartwarming the way they went at it; makes you think that the world isn’t going to be lost to ‘do-nothing-X-generation-Milennials’. These young people really put everything they had into it, getting it done, going from job to job, asking, ‘what can I do next’. I handled the altar, as it has brass inlay work in it that has to be polished carefully and separately (Brasso isn’t good for wood), then a coat of wax over that.
I checked up on them periodically, and really didn’t need to do so. They did a fantastic job. So in making conversation, I asked the kids, “If you’ve ever looked at all the woodwork and brasswork in Downton Abbey, this is the kind of stuff that goes on behind the scenes at the castle all the time.”
And I got all these blank looks.
What the…? “Wait, you’ve SEEN Downton Abbey, right?”
There were other jobs to do after the polishing work, and I can’t believe how fast we whipped through all of it. We got so much stuff done so fast, it was incredible. I looked at my watch as I released them, expecting to see 14:30 or 15:00, but it was only 11:00!!
But look at this: we’re rewarded with the brilliant gleam and wonderful smell of freshly waxed wood, and beautifully polished brass.
May God bless the work of our hands, and may he be glorified.
Meanwhile, there’s a lesson I learned here: Just because you don’t see God directly at work in what you’re doing today, doesn’t mean there’s not some greater good and glory to his Name being done.