Summary: Developing leaders is like sanding floors -- acknowledging that flaws will be removed only by abrasion. But such weaknesses become a channel for strength and for God’s grace to work.
We could all have such perfect houses if people didn’t use them. The most beautiful and perfect rooms you will ever see are the ones in furniture displays at the store or maybe in a museum someplace, and the reason they are so perfect is that nobody uses them.
But in the real world houses are imperfect, a little chaotic, a bit shabby here and there, and that’s because people, real, messy, lively flesh-and-blood people use them.
I will take you mentally upstairs in my house to the room which my son used for eighteen or so years. If you want evidence of rooms that are less than perfect, here is a prime case.
This room contains battered furniture, boy furniture. It is not exactly designer label. As one of my friends puts it, the furniture is not so much early American as it is early orange crate. It is battered and scratched from being assaulted with boots and from suffering the slings and arrows, not of outrageous fortune, but of Boy Scout paraphernalia and of the business end of a pocketknife. A long way from mint condition. A long way from perfect. .
And then there is the floor in that room. You cannot help but notice the floor when you walk in. Over here there is a dark, inky looking stain. It is inky looking because it is ink; that is from when we were going through our "I think I want to do architectural drawing" phase.
Over there is another stain, this one sort of greenish, though obviously an effort has been made to rub it around and sort of disperse the color; this one comes from the chemistry set that every boy has to have, and every chemistry set ever made has at least one recipe for something that explodes, and we found it. We found it all over the floor.
Then over yonder there is another stain. I will spare you the gruesome details about how that got there, except simply to say that we do have a dog and at one time she was a not-too-well-trained puppy. Does that tell you enough? We have a throw rug over that stain.
But you know, the stains don’t especially bother me. The stains I can ignore or cover over with little rugs, and I can forget about them. What I cannot forget about are the rough spots, the holes and gouges and burrs and cracks, the rough spots, the sharp spots.
Walk with me in your imagination into that room, this time without your shoes on, and you will discover what I mean. Over here there is a series of little holes; these are down below a spot on the wall where there still hangs a dart board. Obviously not all the darts made it to their ultimate destination. And if you put your tender feet on that spot, you will feel just a little something, not too bad, but it will be felt.
Now over in another place there is a dip and a dent. Just a trough mashing down a part of the floor. How in the world would a hardwood floor get such a deep depression in it? Well, I asked that question and got a pretty evasive answer, if I remember correctly, but it seems to have something to do with learning to lift weights and to bench press; beginner’s tough luck, I think.
And if you were to follow me all over that room in those stocking feet, I can assure you you would soon be sitting down pulling out splinters, you would be asking for a Band-Aid to repair the puncture wound from the nail heads that stick up, and you ladies would be lecturing me about another pair of hose ruined because they got caught on a rough place.
There is only one way I am going to be able to get that hardwood floor in shape, and that is to sand it down and refinish it. I could cover it with something, I could put another coat of shellac on it, I could even putty some of the worst places, but nothing will ever bring it up to the perfect beauty that a hardwood floor can offer except for one thing: to sand it.
To sand it, be abrasive with it, cut it back, put the tools on it and be harsh with it: that is the only way it can become what it ought to be.
And that is the only way you and I can become what God needs us to be as leaders in His church and His Kingdom. He finds us imperfect, incomplete, full of holes and scarred with rough places, and it is going to take an irritant, it is going to take sanding and scraping and some smoothing-down times before we can be all that He intends us to be.