Friday, March 11, 2011

The Hard Work of Finishing

My best friend Rich is a luthier. Anyone who follows him on the Twitter or Facebook knows that he gets a bit frustrated when it comes time to do the detail work on any guitar that he's building. For the fretboard alone, there are eleven steps required to transform the wood from this:

into this: 

The process is really complicated, but there's an awful lot of sanding and smoothing and polishing involved. Tiring, tedious, annoying polishing. But if he doesn't do it correctly, no matter how beautiful the guitar (and he creates beautiful guitars), it won't play correctly. The whole instrument could be rendered worthless if care isn't taken in doing each of those eleven steps with precision. Carving out the body and seeing the shape of an instrument emerge from a block of wood is a fascinating and gorgeous thing. But what makes it special, what makes it good, is the detail work.

And there's the rub for almost everything that we do. Starting is fun. We get to carve out new ideas and see them take shape. We get to see a skill begin to develop. We get to experience the thrill of a new relationship. That's all very cool and sexy and delightful.

But then we have this thing and we have to polish it. We have to look at this idea and figure out what parts of it don't work, even if they are important to us. The level of improvement in our skill becomes less and less appreciable as we hone it. The relationship has rough edges that we didn't notice at first and that poke at us. Something that started out easy and fun becomes an exercise in patience and perseverance. 

But without that, these ideas, these skills, these relationships -- they can't be all that they should be. They might look like something, but their functionality is impaired. They can never reach their full potential because we didn't do the finishing work on them.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. (Galatians 6:9, NLT)

You have the potential to create something beautiful. Don't give up.


What are you working on that is hard to finish? Where is an area where you've seen that finishing work bring forth a good result?


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