More Lessons From the Bears

Lesson #3: The Chain Saw Rule.

I respectfully stand in awe at the talent of the wood sculptors. They are dealing with quite a different commodity than clay, marble, bronze, or steel. Don Rutledge, the artist we had commissioned to sculpt the 12-foot tall grizzly bear and the 6-foot tall cub, had to be extremely mindful of the temperament of the wood.
Since the wood was still “green” and still attached to the 450 year old roots in the ground, he had to continuously spray the sculpture with water so that it did not dry out unevenly and crack in Colorado’s low humidity and high elevation. In fact, each night, Don wrapped the bears in wet packing blankets to keep them evenly moist. I was made mindful of the many times God had wrapped me in his packing blankets of mercy and grace while I was being chopped. 

I stand I awe of the talent of the artist, but my amazement is in regard to the chain saw. That’s a mean machine! Don never touched the wood one time with a chisel and hammer. He performed every requirement with the gas powered chain saw, even to the carving of the “fur.” 

While I watched the sculpting process I could not help but think of the obvious life lesson involved. “With the roughest of tools can be sculpted a thing of beauty.” I have watched the remarkable talents of those who sculpt marble in Italy, Romania, Africa, and especially in Vietnam. I can sometimes identify myself with the marble as the sculptors of real life have chiseled the rough edges from the slab of my own identity. I have experienced that the process of being shaped and chipped and hammered is not pleasant, at best, but painful and hurtful. But the crude harshness of a chain saw is pretty radical. And yet, I can tell you of times when I could swear that it was definitely a chain saw at work on my attitudes, hopes, and behaviors. It wasn’t a “peck, peck, tap, tap . . . it was varooooom, varoooom!” And the only retort I could come up with was an infantile, “would you at least sharpen the chain?” But even with the roughest of tools can be sculpted a thing of beauty. 

I recall from one of my favorite authors, Oswald Chambers, who wrote, “The things we are going through are either making us sweeter, better, nobler men and women, or they are making us more captious and fault finding, more insistent on our own way. The things that happen either make us fiends, or they make us saints; it depends entirely upon the relationship we are in to God.”

LESSON #4: Addition vs. Subtraction.

All the time Don was sculpting the two bears he never went out and brought something back to the creek site to add to the project. He never screwed on something over here or nailed on something over there. 

I watched with curiosity. The only function utilized by the artist was to systematically pare away the parts of the tree that were unnecessary. He had told me at the beginning, “I see a bear in that tree and I have to help him come out.” The only pieces of the tree that were cut away were the pieces that were restraining the magnificent bear from coming out. 

It is not necessarily what we add, but sometimes what we subtract, that brings about perfection and beauty. For example, we usually think happiness will be achieved by adding something to our lives. We say, “I would be happy if . . . I had a different house . . . a new job that paid more money . . . I could win the lottery . . . had a new husband . . . .” I had a friend that once told me, “I believe that happiness is determined by the things we have successfully learned to live without.” 

Perhaps God does not want you to learn something from the situation in which you find yourself today. Just maybe . . . he wants you to unlearn something. Anyone can become complicated, but it takes real wisdom to become simple. “Simple” includes paring away the unnecessary, the distractions, the addictions, and the impediments that would keep us from becoming the resplendent individuals of beauty and usefulness for which we were imagined and designed. 

I’m extremely pleased that we had Don Rutledge transform our spruce tree. I’m even more pleased that I was able to be an observer and learn the “Lessons from the Bears.”