“A Gouge in a Pew”Categories: M. W. Bassford, Meditations
A couple of weeks ago, I attended a friend’s funeral in an unfamiliar church building. I took a seat by an aisle and shortly noticed a gouge in the back of the pew support in front of me. The gouge was at knee height. To the left/exterior, it was narrow and shallow; to the right/interior, it broadened and deepened to about a quarter inch. Another, fainter horizontal scrape appeared two or three inches above it. None of the other pews around me bore similar markings.
I will never know for sure, but I would guess that the scrapes came from a walker or similar piece of assistive equipment. An older Christian once sat (has sat?) there for years because that was Their Pew. They shuffled into the auditorium on their walker, gingerly lowered themselves to the seat where I sat, folded up their walker, and dragged it into the same row.
As they were doing so, their lack of stability forced them to brace the walker against the pew in front of them. Every time, something (a walker brace? screw heads?) raked across the pew support. Service by service, year by year, those feeble hands wore away the gouge that I saw. That Christian may well be dead now, but the gouge still bears witness. They assembled.
Sometimes, it is the faith we display in our weaknesses that makes the deepest mark. Lots of strong, healthy Christians strode into that auditorium, worshiped, and departed without leaving a trace. However, the pew support remembers the Christian who probably couldn’t drive to church anymore, who couldn’t walk unassisted, whose pace was slow and even doddering. They certainly inspired pity, perhaps contempt, perhaps frustration from the custodial crew, but they came. No one would have faulted them for not coming. They came anyway, and the pew support testifies to their faithful obedience.
So too with the marks we make, and not only on pews. Some of the Christians whose singing I remember most are those who couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. They knew it and sang anyway. Loudly. They were humbled, but God was exalted.
How about the introvert who, with white knuckles and sweaty palms, welcomes a visitor to the assembly? Or the octogenarian who shows up to help a relocated brother unload the moving truck? Or the song leader who can’t read a note of music but listens to a new hymn over and over on YouTube until he feels comfortable introducing it to the congregation?
How about the apostle Paul, who struggled with covetousness but learned from Christ the secret of remaining faithful through poverty and prosperity alike?
We often seek to glorify God through our strengths. This is our wheelhouse. This is the thing we are good at. Look at this wonderful thing we are doing (for God)!
Perhaps, though, He is best glorified through our weaknesses. This is not our wheelhouse. We are terrified. We are a hopeless disaster. We would not be doing this for anybody but God, but He told us to do it, and we are.
The ungodly might be laughing at us, but God isn’t laughing. He is pleased. He loves not only the sacrifices that arise from effortless self-confidence but also those offered in weakness, fear, and trembling. Against all worldly wisdom, we surrender our two mites, knowing it can’t possibly matter but trusting that it will be enough.