I’ve recently spent a few nights wrestling with a great mystery of the universe: Flat pack furniture. Apart from a bit of a sore back from wrangling wood and metal panels, and contorting myself into different angles to screw and hammer, I’ve emerged from the experience basically unscathed. Yes, I did have a few moments of screwing and then un-screwing things that I’d put on wrong or retracing missed steps, but these were all relatively minor detours on an otherwise smooth journey. Not everyone shares my good fortune. A neighbour of mine was telling me recently that it had taken her many days just to put a new fan together. (I think part of it was procrastination rather than complexity, but I can’t be sure.)
Flat pack furniture can be frustrating—read: testing to the Christian experience—but when things go well, the sense of achievement and satisfaction that you feel should be bottled and sold. Not bad for a few hours work.
But beyond the sense of achievement and organisation for our household that these flat pack furniture builds have provided, they have also given me a number of lessons for faith.
"The danger is that many of us get really good at reading the manual. . . . But there is a problem if that is all we do."
First of all, knowing that there is a designer helps me have confidence in the product. I know that the pieces I have been given will fit together to form something greater and something useful. Otherwise, I’ve just bought a random box of pieces and screws. And I would be lost without the designer’s instructions. I think you can see where I’m going with this.
We are God’s masterpieces (Ephesians 2:10). He created us and knows how we fit together. The Bible reveals the Creator—an explanation of His plan and His character—it is crucial for us to know and understand.
The danger is, however, that many of us get really good at reading the manual; understanding the theory of pulling something together or building something up. But there is a problem if that is all we do. The manual is provided so our lives can be lived in a state of harmony with God’s plan and intentions for the world. Just knowing about it and having all our proof-texts lined up does not go far enough.
The Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). It must be put into practice and used. Otherwise it is like a furniture manual that isn’t used to build anything. Our faith needs to be practical. Truly engaging with God’s Word will change us and build us.
Most of the furniture I built had a specific instruction included that the project shouldn’t be attempted alone. The same is true of our Christian life. We are made to be in relationship and life is easier together (Ecclesiastes 4:9–12). Jesus sent His disciples out in twos. We should be discipled and discipling throughout our faith journey. You can’t build by yourself.
There are challenges and struggles—cuts and blisters, a sore back. Sometimes something doesn’t work and you have to retrace your steps and try a different way. Whenever I got stuck my go-to would be to grab the manual. Is that our go-to in life? Do we only grab at our faith or for the Bible if things are going wrong? It was certainly easier when I was able to understand and then implement the instructions, but it still wasn’t always easier or straightforward. In the doing, I learnt more quickly than in the reading.
At the end of the day, this is an incomplete metaphor. But it was a good reminder for me: to seek the Maker, pay careful attention to His instructions and implement my faith for the benefit of everyone—living out His purpose in my life as He planned beforehand (Psalm 139:13–16).