Some years ago, I was introduced to the exquisite craftsmanship of Nathie Katzoff by a video I found on Youtube. Nathie is nothing short of an artist. He is doing things with wood that is truly awe inspiring. The company he started primarily designs custom staircases, but they have expanded into other areas as well. (The pictures on this page are a few examples of his work.)
I was struck, however, by one of the comments in this video. Katzoff said, “If you’re going to build something and it is going to last for 200 years versus you’re going to build something and it is going to last for 10 years, it’s probably the most sustainable thing you can do. You don’t have the opportunity to create something wonderful if it’s for just the temporary moment.” When you know that you are designing and crafting something that is going to be an heirloom, something that is going to be passed down from generation to generation, you approach that thing differently. You don’t cut corners. You don’t skimp on materials. You take your time and give it your very best effort.
Just take a look at the online gallery Katzoff’s work and you will see the utterly amazing work that he is doing with wood craftsmanship. This man is an artist. There’s just no way way around it.
It got me to thinking, though, about the nature of conversion. So many times, we speak of conversion as though it were a one-time thing. “When were you saved?” is probably more likely how we hear people today speak of it. “Well…I got saved (converted) at age twelve. What about you?” The problem with this language is that is does not correspond to the experience people like myself have had in regards to faith. Sure, there was a clear repentance that happened for me at age 12, but it started much earlier and it didn’t end when I prayed a prayer at a concert.
It started with those sweet ladies in the church nursery that loved me and taught me about Jesus through flannel board images. It continued on in elementary school with Vacation Bible School and other church activities. It was spurred on by youth retreats, camps, and mission trips. In college, it took the form of a friend who mentored me and small group experiences at the Baptist Student Union. It has continued on into adulthood, in becoming a husband and a father, and in my calling in my calling as a minister. One of the big influences on my life growing up was the singer and song-writer, Rich Mullins. Towards the end of his life, he was reflecting on this idea of being “born again” in a live concert. He said the following:
“It used to be I only got born again every year, about once a year. That was when I was going to camp – you know, you go every year and get born again again. Those of you who are young enough to go to camp and rededicate your life every year, keep doing it. Because by the time you get to college you’re gonna have to re-dedicate your life about every six months. Then you’ll graduate from college and it will become a quarterly thing. By the time you’re in your 40’s and 50’s you’ll do it about four times a day.”
Conversion is a life-long process. Every single day of our lives are shaping us and forming us for eternity. The more we become like Christ, the more we will be prepared to live with him in eternity. So, if you approach a project differently when you know that it is going to last for 200 years as opposed to 10, how much more seriously do you should approach something that is being fashioned for eternity? This is serious work! Everything that we are doing in our day-to-day lives – going to work, doing chores, shopping, raising a family, caring for neighbors . . . everything – is making us more or making us less like Christ.
If there’s anything that I might learn from Katzoff and Mullins, it’s that God is in the business of making masterpieces – exquisite works of art. People aren’t disposable. God is fashioning us for eternity. Therefore, we would do well to refrain from cutting corners in our spiritual formation. We would do well to refrain from trying to rush holiness and Christlikeness. We would do well to bring our very best and lay it before the Master Artist. The work is slow and tedious after all, but God isn’t in the business of making cheap junk.