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The Wisdom of a Sharp Axe

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“Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed” -Ecclesiastes 10:10
Eric Blauer photo
Eric Blauer photo

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.

 

Join SpokaneFAVS for a conversation on ‘Wisdom’ at its next Coffee Talk, at 10 a.m., Aug. 2 at Indaba Coffee. Blauer is a panelist.
Eric Blauer

About Eric Blauer

I am Frederick Christian Blauer IV, but I go by Eric, it sounds less like a megalomaniac but still hints at my Scandinavian destiny of coastal conquest and ultimate rule. I have accumulated a fair number of titles: son, brother, husband, father, pastor, writer, artist and a few other more colorful titles by my fanged fans. I am a lover of story be it heard, read or watched in all beauty, gory or glory. I write and speak as an exorcist or poltergeist, splashing holy water, spilling wine and breaking bread between the apocalypse and a sleeping baby. I am possessed by too many words and they get driven out like wild pigs and into the waters of my blog at www.fcb4.tumblr.com. I work as a pastor at Jacob's Well Church (www.jacobswellspokane.com) across the tracks on 'that' side of town. I follow Christ in East Central Spokane among saints, sinners, angels, demons, crime, condoms, chaos, beauty, goodness and powerful weakness. I have more questions than answers, grey hairs than brown, fat than muscle, fire than fireplace and experience more love from my wife, family and friends than a man should be blessed with in one lifetime.

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6 comments

  1. I like the ideas about sharpening axes, Eric, and feel that there may be a metaphor in there about wisdom, but think you believe I know what you’re talking about. Having studied Jesus as a follower of the wisdom school, and valuing the biblical and extra-biblical wisdom literature since I first read Song of Solomon and the Beautitudes, I still suspect wisdom in this context is far beyond what we are referring to in ordinary language, as much as Cynic means something different. What does it mean to our lives, and to our ability to form relationships, mean when we try to do it with Wisdom, something beyond common sense intelligence. If you move from between me and the sun, how will that sun illumine me?

  2. RIFF MATTRE

    Hi Eric,

    How does your sharpened edge relate to the nature of good and evil?

  3. Riff,
    I don’t understand your question?

  4. RIFF MATTRE

    I relate wisdom to discernment. Do you agree? Does a sharpened blade more readily discern right from wrong?

  5. Riff, I do think wisdom applies in the fashion you are using. In my post, it could be summed up saying: “Cutting wood with a dull axe is the wrong way to go about doing that work”. It’s intended to be done with a sharp edge. I’m not trying to plum the depths of the meaning of wisdom, I am simply examining how that simple phrase provoked me to examine the dull areas of my life. Places where I am working harder than I need to with less being produced or bearing fruit. This could be true in relationships, work or in my case right now, my health would be an example. I had a next surgery in October and since then it’s been a long recovery with little activity. My body has born the impact of that dullness. So know I have to sharpen that edge again but I have to use wisdom this time, and avoid what got me in the mess with my neck. I need to do less but more focused. Lighter but longer, more food, but good food, less stress, more sleep. On and on it applies. Wisdom is calling me to think about the way in which I am doing stuff. This type of thing is going on in a number of spheres in my life.

  6. RIFF MATTRE

    If you don’t mind me clarifying, are you saying that practicing attention, focus, evaluation, weighing context and consequences of a bigger picture, and learning by ‘mistakes’ are all means to ‘sharpening the blade of wisdom’ in our daily lives?

    Empathy with your challenge. I experience life’s physical road blocks like a parent putting his or foot down REQUIRING me to stop and look at things differently. (Not easy.)

    Thanks 🙂

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