I tend to be a cautious woodworker. I try not to make mistakes that ruin a good piece of wood. So when my jointer began taking a divot out of the end of my wood, I tried to discover the problem. It boiled down to dull blades. (A jointer is a machine that smoothes the edge of a piece of wood.) After a frustrating search, I found a new set of blades and installed them. Not being too confident that I had installed the blades correctly, I ran a piece of scrap wood through to check things out. It came through perfectly, much to my relief.
I moved on to the piece of Black Walnut that I was working on. I made a couple of passes without incident. Then something went wrong. The blade splinted a chuck of wood from the piece, which lodged in the blade and stopped the machine. I quickly turned the machine off and tried to remove the offending splinter. After I had cleared the obstruction, I tried to re-smooth the piece I was working on. Instead, I took an even bigger chunk out of my wood and stopped the machine again!
At this point, my frustration level was escalating. I began to take the machine apart and discovered several things that had been jarred out of line. After a thorough cleaning, I put everything back together and cautiously tried again. This time it worked perfectly.
This little incident reminded me of how I often approach problems. My first reaction is to jump in and “fix the problem.” The problem is that I often make it worse. Instead of taking the time to really understand the issues, I go for the quick fix. This often causes further problems that I have to deal with. By this time, I am brought to a complete halt and I have to do some major repair work.
Paul talked about this in Galatians 6. If I may summarize what he is saying in a couple of words, it would be “act gently.” Here is what Paul says.
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. Galatians 6:1-5 (NIV)
Paul lays out some principles for us in dealing with the problems that we face in life.
When you are faced with an issue, be cautious. Most of us rush into things, looking for the quick fix. In most cases, this only makes things worse. Instead, seek to fully understand the situation first. Paul tells us to be careful, because we can unwittingly fall into a trap set by Satan.
When we are faced with an issue, we need to support the other person. To truly carry the other person’s burden we need to put ourselves in their place. I’m guilty of addressing issues from my context, instead of the other person’s context. Also, as Paul implies, I need to care more about the other person than being right. Genuine love says, let’s work on this together, rather than, I can fix that.
When we are faced with an issue, look in the mirror. There is something within us that wants to be the hero. We want to be seen as competent and confident. This tends to puff us up. We see ourselves in a more positive light than is reality.
Jesus addressed that in Matthew 7:3-5. "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.”
Paul affirms this when he tells us to test ourselves first. Once we have a realistic understanding of who we are, then we can attempt to help someone else.
In woodworking it is important to be cautious. When you act rashly, you risk ruining the piece of wood that you are working on, and even worse, you risk losing fingers. Spiritually, we need to support one another gently. As James says, be slow to speak, slow to get angry and quick to listen.