I didn’t start as a carpenter, but all I ever wanted to be was a carpenter,
Unrealistically, we often ask young children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” If they’re not sure, we say, “Well, you must have an idea.” No pressure there on an eight year old.
In high school we ask the same question: “So, what are you going to do/be when you get out of school?” Again, “I don’t know” isn’t usually the answer we accept and we might secretly consider them a slacker for having “no direction” in life. Again, no pressure there.
Somehow we think that kids should actually have an idea of what they want to do for the next fifty years of their life when they’re in elementary, middle, or high school. I might be the odd man out on this one, but all I thought about was whose car we were going to take to get to the lake, where the party was, and if Toni Bertucci would say yes if I asked her out. (Actually, I guess that did make me sound like a slacker.)
However, I knew what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a carpenter in a family of machinists, and after high school I got a job in construction with Vogt Construction located in beautiful, downtown Okauchee, WI. Interestingly, all three of my younger brothers followed me into the same company when they graduated. I told them they just wanted to be just like me (although I knew they didn’t stand a chance with Toni Bertucci…who, actually, had the good sense never to date me.).
To my dismay Vogt Construction didn’t see the obvious, un-tapped potential of this wannabe carpenter: every new guy started as a mason tender. Tending mason is hard work: loading and unloading trucks, mixing mortar, carrying (literally) tons of brick and block, and setting up scaffold. I tended mason for two grumpy old guys whom nobody wanted to work with. The words, “More mud!”, “More block/brick!”, and “Stack ’em closer!” will forever ring in my mind. Masons got the recognition, but tenders did all the work. But all I wanted to be was a carpenter.
Eventually I got off the mason tending detail when a new guy was hired on and I got on the concrete crews. Flat-work, walls, swimming pools, bank vaults, and sea walls were the order of the day. Lots of hard work but at least I wasn’t tending mason anymore, and concrete guys were more fun.
After college in Menomonie, WI, I went to Boston with a good paying job in sales, but it wasn’t for me. Back in Menomonie, I heard about an old Norwegian carpenter who might hire me. He didn’t need help, but I told him that I’d work for him for a week with no pay: all he had to do was decide if he liked me, and if so, would he give me a job. I worked like crazy all week and held my breath when he came on the site on Friday, walked up to me and, with his thick accent, said, “Well, you might as well come back on Monday.” It wasn’t the rousing, “Man, you’re great and ‘gonna be a gifted carpenter…I really need you!” I had hoped for. However I had a job and would finally get a chance to become what/who I had always seen in my mind’s eye. Manley Halverson gave me the fundamentals of carpentry.
Why do I tell you all of this? Because the path to becoming whom you plan for us to become can be a circuitous path. It took six years for me to actually have the chance to finally bend a nail and cut a board too short. Even though you eventually steered me into ministry I still became, in my minds-eye, who and what I knew I was supposed to be: I still see myself as a carpenter at heart.
Looking back I see the impatience we have with following dreams. Dreams take a while to materialize. I also see there are times when I’ve given up on you. Often it’s only in looking back that I see how the puzzle and your presence/direction in my life finally fits together.
So thank you for the lesson of time where I have seen you moving steadily to a dream of whom I can become. When I teeter on giving in or up please remind me of the lessons that some good things take years and do not happen on my schedule. Help me to be patient.
By the way, I ended up with the Italian I was meant to be with…too bad for Toni.
Thanks for listening. I love you. Pastor Dan