I have been unable to get the image of this simple wooden beam out of my mind over the past few days.
An acquaintance of mine here in Tallahassee, Stacey, passed away at the age of 46 recently. She had been a true shining light in countless lives. Although I did not know her well, an overwhelming number of people in my social circle were taken to their knees in grief as they said goodbye to their friend.
On her memorial page, one of the pictures that was shared was one of the wooden beams which were part of the structure of her church. She had written a sentiment on that piece of bare wood before it was drywalled over and turned into a “finished” place of worship. Her friends and family found solace in the verse she had chosen, and I am sure they would all confirm that she lived by the verse she chose: Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your path.
This piece of bare wood got me thinking about two other times I have seen someone write on the “raw” construction components of a building.
Once, when my previous employer was transitioning to a new Third Party Administrator, we were taken on a tour of their contact center as it was under construction. One of the workers had written “a sentiment” on a bare piece of wood. My Spanish isn’t that good, so I asked our tour guide what it said. She said, “You don’t want to know.” I’m thinking the message wasn’t “may this business serve every child of Florida as if they were our own sons and daughters.” Probably something more profane than profound!
About ten years ago, when my church was constructing a new sanctuary, we were invited to come to the unfinished church and write on the bare wood underpinnings as a perpetual message and a way to bless the future of the congregation. My son was very small; I am pretty sure his contribution was a line drawing at best or perhaps a scribble. I don’t remember exactly what I wrote, but I attempted to prayerfully convey my hopes and dreams for the future of this parish as it tried to fulfill its mission.
All of us have some type of “raw wood” at the core of who we are. We cover it up with fashion and makeup. We embellish the things we say with attempts to fit in, to appear to be more than we are, to impress and persuade.
As I read people’s comments about Stacey, my acquaintance, I read example after example of how she encouraged, empathized, and motivated others to be the best selves they could be. I thought about how many times in this state capital town I have dealt with people who have completely lost sight of who they are at their core, who make personal choices which hurt those they love as they give in to stress, a hunger for power, and confusion about what really matters.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I find myself mindful that so much of our lives are covered up with window dressing and exaggeration. And I ask myself if the words on the “raw wood” of who I am shine through in what I write, the words I say, and the way I interact with others.
What would you write on your “raw wood?” It’s never too late to strip away the superficial and inscribe a new message.