I grew up in a carpenter’s house. My dad worked for more than 52 years as a journeyman carpenter, and one of my younger brothers was not only a carpenter, but taught carpentry in the apprentice program for the carpenter’s union. Over the course of my time living with my folks, I watched my dad build some pretty incredible things. But my ‘watching’ wasn’t only from afar. I worked as part of my dad’s carpenter crew for a couple of years as a way of earning funds to go to bible school. I wasn’t gifted with the ability to build things like my dad and my brother. But, growing up in a family of carpenters helped me come to an appreciation for the value of something most people are familiar with: Working from a pattern.
I first learned about patterns when my dad and I were building a house. As we framed that structure, we needed fire blocking between studs in the walls before the sheet rock went on. My dad was a lot faster at nailing than I was; my job was to cut short 16-inch 2×4 fire blocks and give them to my dad to nail in place. Rather than measuring every block with a tape measure, my dad cut a ‘pattern block’ for me to use. It was exactly 16 inches long. He gave me the pattern to use, and then he left me to my measuring and cutting while he busied himself with other things. He said he’d nail the blocks in after I got them cut.
I set about to complete my job. I marked the first block with the pattern my dad left for me. After cutting that first block, I didn’t pay much attention to which block was the pattern. So, I used the block I had just cut as the pattern for the second block. It was handy. It was there. And, of course, it was the same length as the pattern my dad had left for me. I used the second block to measure and cut the third block. The third block to measure and cut the fourth until I had cut an entire stack of blocks for my dad to nail into place. Somewhere in that stack was the original pattern my dad had given me. But the pattern wasn’t critical or even necessary for me to do my job.
At least that’s what I thought, until … until my dad came back, took my stack of fire blocks and began to nail them between the studs. Studs that were exactly sixteen inches on center. The first two or three blocks fit okay. A little snug, perhaps, but he made them work. But by the time he got to number five or six or seven, he noticed something odd. “These blocks are too long,” he said. “Did you use the pattern I gave you?”
“Yes,” I said. “Well, I used it for the first one. After that, I couldn’t remember which block was the pattern, so I just used the block I cut as a pattern for the next block.” The obvious reality that had escaped me was that pencil line on a 2×4 may not seem like a very wide line, perhaps a 32nd of an inch? But if you cut 32 blocks, adding a 32nd of an inch on each successive block? Yup. By that time, you’re block is an inch too long.
If following a specific pattern in carpentry is important to keep track of and measure success by? How much more important is a Pattern in building a great life? In the early Church, Paul warned the Corinthian believers not to give in to the temptation of patterning their lives after a particular leader or person. He told those at Corinth, “ … you are God’s house. Using the gift God gave me (Paul) as a good architect, I designed blueprints; Apollos is putting up the walls. Let each carpenter who comes on the job take care to build on the foundation! Remember, there is only one foundation, the one already laid: Jesus Christ.
And, as a carpenter who had to learn the hard way, I would also say there is only one Pattern for life: Jesus Christ.
Phil. 2:5 says, in the Amplified Bible, “Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:]
When I pattern my life after Him … my measure of success is guaranteed. There’s no better way to live than a life of dedication and service to Jesus. Our example; our pattern. Our only hope.