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Manual Labor and the Master’s Work

Nicholas Hardesty


I can do a great deal of thinking on the top rung of a ladder. Chief among my thoughts is, “Dear God, don’t let me fall,” but I’m thinking other things too: “Go slow.” “Be careful.” “You got this.” And then, on my most recent ascent, a new thought: “This is awesome.”

This is awesome.

I’ve never thought that high up a ladder before. I hate ladders. They scare me to death. Some people spend their entire work day in an elevated position painting, roofing, repairing power lines, etc. Not me. I like two feet planted firmly on the hard earth.
Recently, however, I’ve been helping my neighbor replace the siding on his house. And he’s sure got me high up that ladder. I’ve also been using table saws, drills, caulking guns, nail guns, pry bars, and even a boom lift!

Trying My Hand at This

I’m horrible with all this stuff. I can barely screw in a light bulb. But, my neighbor? He’s a master. This guy is basically a carpenter, mechanic, machinist, construction worker, and contractor rolled all into one. If it’s broken, he can fix it.
Of course, the reality is, he doesn’t need me anymore than I need a punch in the head. And I could have listened to my insecurities and just stayed out of it. But, thankfully, I didn’t. Instead, I seized the moment, I expressed an interest, and, out of the kindness of his heart, my neighbor agreed to take me on as his helping hand. Slowly but surely he is teaching me the fine art of replacing wood siding.
And I’m loving it.

Learning from the Best

At first glance, I have no good reason to enjoy what we’re doing. My dad fell off a ladder when he was a few years younger than me and crushed both of his ankles. That table saw I mentioned earlier could easily cut my fingers off. Every second on the job requires me to push myself to do something I’ve never done before.

Why would I look forward to this?

I think it’s because my neighbor is not just tolerating me, or pitying me, or giving me this or that odd job so that I’ll leave him alone. He is mentoring me. He is guiding me. He is sharing his knowledge and experience with me. He is even trusting me with difficult tasks so that I will build up my confidence and realize what I’m capable of. All the while he is affirming me and providing gentle, clear instruction with a Christ-like patience.
He called me his “apprentice” the other day and I beamed with pride. He’s a great man, and I’m just honored to be remotely associated with his work. It is a privilege to work under this master.

The Master’s Work

As I ponder and pray about the confidence and excitement my neighbor has given me, I have come to realize that I need a master like that for my spiritual life, too. I think we all do. Wouldn’t that be something? To know a spiritually mature, seasoned disciple of Christ who could guide you, instruct you, and share from a wealth of knowledge and experience in Christian living?
That’s exactly what Jesus did for His apostles, and look at what they were able to achieve! Jesus’ example is proof enough that we were never meant to walk this path of discipleship alone. Instead, we were meant to journey together, ideally with someone who has walked the well-worn path that leads to the Father and who can meet us where we are and show us the way.
If you know the path well, if you can make expert use of the tools that God has given you, then I encourage you: Find the awkward, timid-but-eager people in your life and mentor them. And if you are new to all this “missionary discipleship” business, find someone who can mentor you and be bold enough to ask for help.
There’s no greater privilege then to be associated with the awesome work of the Master.

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