“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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Location: United States

A person God turned around many times.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bent Nails

This may seem like the most boring blog post you ever read, but it is necessary to make a point.

I used to be a framing carpenter. But after a career of 7 years, I ended it all on a pretty sour note. I was working for a low budget carpentry company and, with another person, was assigned to finish a set of townhouse units. When we got there we couldn’t find any nails to do the work. When we asked the supervisor about it, we were told to pick up all the nails we had bent during the erection of the building, straighten them and use them. We pulled nails out of boards, scoured the grounds, foraging, grazing, for nails.

Over the years as a carpenter, out of necessity I learned how to drive a bent nail. There is no avoiding it, when you drive thousands of them in a year. (At least back in the day when pneumatic nail guns weren’t so popular.) Driving a bent nail just becomes second nature.

Sometimes we even bent them on purpose to send the nail to a particular place in the pieces of wood we were nailing together. We would drive the nail a little, give it a little bent, drive it a little further, and bend it a little more, repeating the process until the nail did a curved motion in the wood. This was necessary if the spot needing to be nailed was located in real tight quarters without any room to swing the hammer and the nail needed to go in at a certain angle.

Along the way, I would straighten used nails when new nails were too far away and I was too tired to get them. If only a few was all I needed, I would find them on the floor and reuse them. They were plenty strong and worked nicely.

So I have my PhD in driving nails. Some people have difficulty driving a new nail, much less one that was previously bent. They might think it’s impossible to reuse nails, but it’s not hard with a little finesse. To straighten a nail, first of all you lay it down on a hard surface with your finger on the end furthest from the bend. (So you don’t hit your finger!) Roll the nail so that the bend is up. Then hammer the crown down until the nail is straight. (I hope I didn’t just insult anyone’s intelligence.)

Next, analyze the nail for potential problems during the driving phase, i.e. the weakened bend spot, a tilted head on the top of the nail, any lack of straightness that will cause a new bend, etc. Since the nail will likely rebend at the previous bend spot, its best if during straightening you take the bend a little further than straight, so that the bend is now a little bent in the opposite direction from the original bend. This lets the weakened spot be supported by the unweakened side. Working together all the torsion on the nail shaft bypasses the weaker side and it’s stronger neighbor takes the brunt of the driving force.

Now, drive the nail carefully, watching for a rebend, and taking into account a not-so-perpendicular nail head that will cause the hammer head to glance off and create a new bend. Try to hit the head of the nail a little off center, closer to the edge on the side where you overbent the nail when you were straightening it in order to utilize the stronger side of the nail shaft.

Today, I am helping my parents do a little carpentry at their house. It started to look like we didn’t buy enough nails, and in order to be able to finish the job, once again, I found myself straightening and reusing bent nails. It felt like a throw-back to 21 years in the past, but I found I hadn’t lost the know-how.

The job was an outdoors job, so the nails were galvanized─yes, soft nails. But as I patiently worked to drive in the old nails, I found that they went in. It took tender care to make those old, soft nails to go in the wood. After straightening one pretty good, I would carefully drive it in the wood until it began to bend. Then I would use my hammer claw to bend it back up again. Then I carefully drove it again until it bent. It might go in the wood ¼ inch before bending, but after repeated rebendings, with exception of one nail, each made it all the way in the wood. Each nail ended up very nicely holding down the deck boards to the joists. And I was glad to be able to reuse them.

We are bent; we have a bent─a bent to sin and selfishness. This doesn’t take rocket science to figure out. When God needs humans to do a particular job, He doesn’t get a 50 lbs. box of nice, new, shiny nails. He gets rejects, old, bent, rusted, lackluster used-up nails. We don’t have much to offer Him; but this doesn’t faze Him a bit. He is used to impossible tasks; His patience is everlasting; His mercy and kindness toward us endure for ever. He knows how to use us with our weaknesses and bent to evil. He uses us until we bend at our weak spot; then He straightens us up by His grace and puts us back into His service....until we bend again. With loving patience does He bend over us and straighten us up, all mangled but still usable in His estimation, and He recommissions us into His service. No sin, no undesirable character traits, no fallen nature, is too much for Him to deal with and make straight and functional for His purposes.

He is the Master craftsman. It is God who has made us, and not we ourselves. He knows how we tick. He knows the circumstances we have come from and the habits we have unintentionally cultivated or subliminally adopted, or even inherited. We are the nails in His nail pouch, all bent out of shape, and fallen short of His glory. Alluding to His carpenter days of Nazareth, Jesus’ motto became, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” Jn. 5:17. My Father works like this, so that’s why I do it that way. If you’ve seen the Son, you’ve seen the Father. If the Son is eternally patient, so must the Father be. The Father is the great Master craftsman, whom the Son reflects in every detail. Sin is no match for the grace of God. If our desire for reconciliation with God will allow Jesus to remove the clamoring of self, no amount of misfitness can cause us to be lost. That was guaranteed at the cross. If we will go there we will begin to see the Godhead working out every solution for a sin-marinated human race. If we desire His companionship, we need only request it. “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” Rom. 11:29.

Let us never despair that the Father doesn’t want us with Him. His concern over one lost soul exceeds a mother’s worry over her endangered child. Our Father must maintain the justice and authority of His government in heaven, but He will make sure we get every advantage and we are assured salvation and a place by His side, so long as we keep coming to Him to receive those advantages.

Keep in mind, though, that pride has no place in heaven. It’s got to go. But Jesus doesn’t just yank it from us, He works and works, and then works some more, to get us to let go of pride and self-sufficiency. During the process of getting us ready for a place next to the infinite righteousness of His Father, there will necessarily be some straightening of our natural bent to sin. The heavenly Orthodontist has a big job to do with getting us all straightened out. There will be correction, maybe even some drastic measures that we don’t like. But there will also be much encouragement and acceptance and tender mercy all along the way. Because, in Him “mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Ps. 85:10. And this is only right; this plan alone we can trust in. The only reason anyone misses out on heaven is by their own choice to not allow God to straighten us.

“I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.” Is. 42:16. “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places shall be made smooth.” Lk. 3:5. “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” Is. 40:5.


Blogger Kev said...

I've been a crooked nail all my life!

7/23/2006 7:54 AM  
Blogger David said...

But obviously you're straightened out now since the master Carpenter got a hold of you.

7/23/2006 6:43 PM  
Blogger said...


thanks for this. Just want to say sorry for the joke about 3rd world countries. It was just a joke. There is no 3rd World Cup. Not to make light of poverty and sickness, it just seemed funny.

7/25/2006 2:38 PM  
Blogger Patrick Davis said...

Well done! You and I are sharing carpentry for parents this summer, though on opposite sides of the US. I am doing roofs for my father in law and my dad. In the middle of a heat wave yet!
I enjoyed your analogy.

7/25/2006 6:23 PM  
Blogger David said...

Good to hear from you, Grabrielle and Pat! Thank you for stopping in. Grabrielle, I know you didn't mean hatefulness. Take care. Pat, roofing in a heat wave is a recipe for a heat stroke. Be careful up there! Thanks for your comments, you are both great friends.

7/26/2006 6:57 PM  
Blogger Trailady said...

I am very much a bent nail, but I trust that God can straighten me out.

7/26/2006 9:50 PM  
Blogger Kev said...

I was redoing a friend's kitchen and I had taken the trim off to scrape some paint and when I put the trim back on I had to reuse some old nails. I was literally hold them all the way through hammering them because they were bent. Thought about your post while doing it.

Any thoughts on the email I sent you?

7/27/2006 8:32 PM  
Blogger David said...

Thanks for all the nice comments. Kev, I will email you and I like what you said about having to hold the bent nail all the through the reusing process. How must God hold us close in order to keep our mangled characters upright and driven directly to His goal. How must He hover over us.

8/03/2006 5:23 AM  

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