Gilland: Hammering out a life lesson

This past week, I had a conversation with a new friend, and something said reminded me of an event that occurred a long time ago—when I was in 8th grade.

Back then, a common class for young men was “shop class,” which I really enjoyed. Our teacher was fun, and he had the personality that made him a perfect fit for this class. He would challenge us to think “outside the box,” and he would often incorporate our own interests in the projects.

But there was one that he brought our way that I will never forget.

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The project was to make an all-metal hammer, utilizing both metal rods and steel bars. This piqued my interest: Working with wood to form art pieces or practical tools was one thing, but how would we manage dealing with steel?

Our teacher was very patient with all of our questions and explained that not only would we be able to cut the steel with a hacksaw, but we would be able to sand the edges smooth.

I will be honest with you: I thought he was crazy. I had sanded and whittled with wood all my life, but the concept of a sandpaper for steel was a brand-new notion to me. But he seemed very confident.

The day came to begin our new project. He had drawn the idea of an all-steel hammer, one that would be balanced and shiny, something

that would not only be fun to make, but something that we could even use and keep.

The handle was actually a steel tube, and we could hammer the thinner shank into the tube. The head of the hammer was all-out square shaped solid steel. This was the hard part—making the angled cut and smoothing the jagged edges… with sandpaper.

I learned a lesson that day, but it wasn’t until years later that I would apply it. As I worked that week on the sanding part, I was shocked at how slowly the progress came. I was also surprised at how HOT the metal got from the sanding. Friction tends to cause heat. Check.

But what amazed me the most from all the sanding was that there was actually steel “sawdust” on the table around the vise that held my masterpiece. I remember thinking how incredible it was that I could sand steel!

Before long, I had a shiny hammer that was not only smooth from the sanding, but it glistened after polishing.

Handmade hammer on wooden surface

Fast forward to a time years later, as I remembered all I had learned on that project. That was when I gained understanding and three applications:

  • It takes metal to sand metal. The sandpaper we used was steel based, not like regular wood sandpaper. So it is that one person can help another, showing him rough edges that need smoothing. Proverbs 27:17 says: “As iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another.” 
  • The constant sanding not only takes a lot of time, but it causes friction—and friction brings heat. True discipleship may produce the same, but with patience and care, we can grow through that uncomfortable process as God puts His “sandpaper” to our lives.
  • I also learned that the sawdust that fell off during the sanding happens in our lives too. Bad attitudes, habits and thinking can simply fall to the floor when we experience the heart-changing work of God in our hearts.

I keep that old hand-made hammer in my sock drawer to this day. It is a constant reminder of an important lesson learned. Even after all these years, I am thankful for the fact that God is still at work in my life, smoothing out the rough spots that need to conform to His word.

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