One of my favorite things to do is sit on my cabin deck on the mountain and enjoy the view during the summer. As the Summer progressed this year, the sporadic piles of dead tree limbs across our property started bothering me more and more. Nothing can really ruin the amazing view, but it kind of distracted from it. Finally, one day, I decided that if I wanted the piles removed, I may have to do something about it. Myself. Something more than just nag my husband, that is.
So I caved. “Alright, teach me how to use a chainsaw”, I told him one day. Summoning my courage, I set aside all visions of bloody accidents and leg amputations, and I reminded myself that I am tough. Yes, tough. Now, I am normally not afraid of most things, but I do know my limits. And rotating blades and heavy power tools fall within these limits. Comments from people about how much they “enjoyed” using a chainsaw baffled me - and peeked my curiosity. A little. So perhaps I could at least try it.
My husband is a great teacher and always believes in me more than I do myself. So of course, he jumped on this idea. Equipping me with gloves and safety glasses, he went to work instructing me immediately. He set out two cinder blocks, laying a log directly across it. At the first sound of the chainsaw reving, I fought the urge to run and hide. I am tough. I am tough. I told myself. What’s the worst that could happen anyway? Ok, nevermind. Casting out visions of blood and gore again, I focused on his instructions and gripped the chainsaw tightly, holding it as far away from my body as possible. I managed to slowly cut one log, then another.
Then he explained to me the idea of watching for the kickback. As if cutting my leg off with the chainsaw was not enough. Apparently, I also had to be aware of the log flinging off the blade unpredictably - and hitting me in the face. More visions. Great. He taught me how to hold the saw close to the log and put one foot on the log so it would hold it in place while I cut. I did the best I could muster, but it was awkward and difficult to say the least.
I continued for a few more logs, and I actually sawed maybe four logs total. My back was aching and I had all I could take of the noise, so I decided I was done for the day. He tried to show me how to oil the blade and take care of the chainsaw, but I was done. Completely done. I never wanted to pick it up again, actually. Perhaps my friend was right – this kind of thing was really better left to men.
A week later, I was up on the mountain again, and the piles of dead trees were still there. Taunting me. A lazy summer afternoon with just myself and the kids, I started entertaining the idea of trying the chainsaw again. What’s the worst that could happen? Visions of my kids calling 911 after I cut my leg off – well… they were old enough to do that now, right? I chastised myself for even thinking that. But the itch to try it grew and grew until it finally got the best of me.
So, I summoned my courage and pulled out the chainsaw again. It started up right away, and I used the cinder block technique my husband had showed me. The power in my hands felt different this time. I was not so afraid of it now. After a few logs, I started experimenting without the blocks. I put one foot on the log to hold it down and with each cut, and my confidence grew. I found ways to put less pressure on my back. The cuts went faster and I started stacking the logs as I went. Pretty soon one pile was done and stacked. I stepped back and admired my work as I wiped the sweat off my brow. A deep sense of satisfaction overwhelmed me. I am tough!! Hoo-rah! Man’s work? Pshaw!
And then I couldn’t stop. I went on to the next pile and I began to understand why some people said they enjoyed this. The sweat ran off my brow and dirt mixed with blood from cuts and scrapes covered my legs and arms. A deep sense of accomplishment welled up within me.
Perhaps I should have stuck around to learn how to care for the chainsaw (it turns out that it is bad if you don’t oil the blade – who would have known, eh?) But my husband was glad to finish the lesson after he had seen my stacked pile of wood. And luckily, the chainsaw bounced back with a little oil and gas in the right places.
As I pondered that story, it makes me think how many times in life we miss out on things because we are too scared to try. Now, I am not suggesting we just throw caution to the wind and take dumb risks. There is much to be said for caution and safety.
And I am not suggesting everyone should learn to use a chainsaw (although if you want to, we still have LOTS more dead trees and I know a great teacher)
But seriously …we are ALL called to use our unique gifts and talents for God’s kingdom. None of us are born with these gifts – we learn them, we practice them, and we develop them over time. God has equipped us with certain skills and abilities. It is our job to learn to use them well and do amazing work for the kingdom.
Sometimes we need courage to even get out there and try. If that is you, I am praying for curiosity and determination to rise up in you so strong, it overshadows any fear.
Sometimes, we need someone to give us some good instruction first. (I’m pretty sure I would have cut my leg off or ruined the chainsaw without good instruction) If that is you, I pray you will have the wisdom to know who to ask and the courage to ask when the time is right.
Sometimes, we try something new and it is really hard and awkward at first. In fact, I can’t think of anything I have learned that wasn’t difficult the first time. If that is you, I pray you will have the itch to get out and try it again. And again and again. Until your confidence grows and you find tremendous power and joy in the work.
God bless, my friends!