I recently went camping and we invited one young man who had never been shown how to chop wood with an axe. I spent some time teaching him how to accomplish it without impaling himself in the shin. As we were chopping, I realized the blade was in serious need of sharpening, so I spent some good meditative time honing the edge. Afterwards, we reveled in the glory of chopping wood with a sharp edge, an experience that somehow feels very primal.
The whole experience put me into a more attentive state concerning the edge of my own life. In the quiet woods and revitalizing mountain waters, I could feel myself coming more awake to the needs of my own soul. After reflecting on handling a dull edge and seeing the amount of work it took without a sharp edge, I realized that truth ran across a number of areas of my life.
A woodsman was once asked, “What would you do if you had just five minutes to chop down a tree?” He answered, “I would spend the first two and a half minutes sharpening my axe.”
It’s so easy to neglect the things that sharpen us and bring back the edge to our life and work. We get so busy, we forget to care for our lives in the ways that maintain us and make us grow. We often let the pressing demands of others, or our own hangups, distractions or excuses crowd out the attentive care needed to maintain a livable pace and impact.
I determined to restore the hatched, revive the edge and devote myself to a work of meditative meaning for myself and others I journey with in our ManClan men’s group. The project isn’t done; I still have some soaking of the handle to help it swell more firmly into the axehead and then re-stain the handle and give it one final sharpening before it’s fully ready for our September ManKamp up at Priest lake, where it will be reunited with it’s true purpose: chopping wood!
“Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” – Proverbs 27:17
This simple project has been a conscious and prophetic act of defiance. Defying my own tendencies to surrender my edge, grow dull, exert more energy than needed and allow age and ease to corrode the glimmer of steel in my soul. Defying the temptations to neglect the hard friction of relationships with others and commit to continue to build meaningful friendships that keep me sharp.
The older I get, I see the path of wisdom triumphing over the brute and often ignorant strength of my youth. I am learning to do more work with less effort and devoting myself to the things that cut deepest, leave the most impact and produce the lasting change and success we all hope to see in our lives.
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