What if I were to say “Take a seat and let’s talk for a minute or two”? That process seems rather simple, right? You find the seat nearest you or seems the most comfortable and you take a seat. You might take in a bit of information about that chair, but most likely you want to make sure it’s going to hold up your weight and that is the extent of the brain space that you give to that chair.
Very rarely do we think about what that chair is made out of. We don’t envision this chair being pieces of wood in a furniture factory somewhere. We don’t think about the process of this chair coming from a single log laying in a lumber yard. And we certainly don’t attach that log to the earth and add limbs and leaves until it is a standing, living, breathing tree in a forest with a specific home in a specific place in this world.
It is just a chair.
They just show up at Pottery Barn or Target packaged nicely in a box. We understandably do not have any interaction with the chair-making process, so our brain has no reference point for the process of it going from tree to furniture. From the forest to final form, as our friends at Wood-Mizer would say.
We also don’t spend time thinking about the person that made the chair. Maybe we don’t even recognize that this chair was built by someone. Possibly even a team of people.
But if we pause, we can recognize that someone had to design the chair, someone milled the timber, someone prepared the wood, fashioned that wood into specific pieces, manufactured the furniture pieces, finished the piece with a specific stain, and then shipped the piece to its final resting place on a showroom floor.
You don’t know this person, this team of makers, and chances are you will never meet him or her in your life. There is no face that comes to mind when you look at the furniture in your living room, no story that came with it filled with dreams, hopes, and needs. You don’t know if that individual had a blessing occur in his or her life, or a tragedy. You don’t know what that maker was feeling when he or she was constructing your chair.
Flipping the coin around, that worker had no ability to know that you would be the one using the chair he or she built. And that worker has no ability to comprehend the emotions that you are feeling, good or bad, as you lean back trusting that their handwork and craftsmanship ensures that this chair will do its job and hold the weight.
So what is our lesson? Why am I writing about how you don’t know the hopes and fears of the individual who helped assemble the desk you bought from Target?
Because wherever you are, or whatever you’re doing, chances are a piece of wooden furniture is nearby, and someone with a story made it into what it is today. Your dinner table, your desk at work, the chair your child sits in at school, the gym floor where you play a weekly game of basketball, the dance floor at your sister’s wedding… Each crafted by an individual with a story, a heart, a dream.
And I think we can get so caught up in the “what” that we forget the WHO. Our world is busy and full as we move through our lives attempting to make it the best version that it can be. And while it is understandable to not take the time to think about who made the chair that you’re sitting in, it might be something to think about.
Because if I can spend a few seconds thinking about, and yes, even praying for the person or people that built the chair that I am sitting in, where will my mindset be conditioned to go when I interact with my spouse, my children, my friends, my colleagues, or whomever I interact with today?
If I create a discipline of connecting the ordinary world around me with real living, breathing humans, that can only better my relationships with those that I care for and care about.
And then the concept of “Love your neighbor” might just have a different ring to it.
Because the person who made my chair is in fact my neighbor.
We have a young man with us at Narrow Gate Exchange that is working on designing and making chairs and other pieces of furniture. Our first Exchange student, Davis Muhairwe, came thousands of miles away from Uganda and brought with him his story and his dream of making fine furniture to sell in his hometown.
His passion for creating wood products extends to his desire to love God with all of his heart and to love others as he hopes to lift his community out of poverty through international economics and business.
But he does not see dollar signs and sales numbers.
Instead, he sees customers as people who have their own story who are in deep need of the love and relationship of Jesus Christ. Who knows, one day you may be sitting in a chair that Davis built.
I happen to be doing just that as I write this piece.
And every time I sit in this chair, I won’t think of it as just a wooden chair that fulfills a simple purpose. I will think about the person that built it and the life that he leads for the Glory and Praise of Jesus Christ.
So take a seat with me. Let’s have a conversation. And may that conversation remind us of the people we love and the true reason we are here in the first place!