Coping and Corners

Rev. Chip Hammond

My wife likes nice molding in the house. Nothing too fancy, just nice. I like wood-working. This does not necessarily mean that I am good at wood-working, I just like it. 

Those of you who have been in my house have perhaps noticed that we have paneling in the dining room and traditional Virginia chair rail in the living room. I did that. At the same time I put that in, my wife told me she would like crown molding. That was about five years ago.

It’s not that I ignored my wife’s expressed desire. (I will be forever thankful to the pastor who did our premarital counseling. He told me, "Chip, when it comes to decorating the house, your input consists in saying, ‘Yes, Dear.’" I have little doubt that this has in part contributed to a very happy marriage of twenty-three years.) It’s that I wasn’t sure how to cope with the corners of crown molding. So I asked the experts. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you how many ways there are to negotiate corners when it comes to crown molding. 

So for five years I have been plotting, scheming, and sometimes picking up a short length of crown molding to try various techniques. After a half-decade I arrived at two conclusions regarding my project: 1) the method I would use to make the cut (which is too complicated to describe here); and 2) since I have never encountered a wall that is anything like ninety degrees, rather than try to cut two 45 degree angles, I would take a trick out of the book of the old German carpenters and cope out the profiles.

My ego is on the line here. If you are like me, whenever I see molding I always look immediately at the corners. All molding looks good as it runs along the wall - that’s how it came from the store. How well someone did in putting up the molding is discovered by the corners.

It strikes me how similar this is to our lives. As long as things go along nice and straight, we all look great. Over the years I’ve met people in various venues who are the nicest, most polite, most considerate, godless people you could ever meet. In fact, if you met them and didn’t ask them about their faith, you would probably assume that they were Christians. You would be glad to have them as members of your Church.

Where the truth becomes evident, though, is when life does not run along straight and smooth, but when life takes an unexpected turn. How they cope at the corner speaks volumes about them. It is not just true for them, though, it is true for us.

Are you trusting in Christ? Do you live in obedience to his Word? Most of us can look like quite accomplished Christians as life is going along well, straight and smooth like the molding comes from the factory. It’s how we cope at the corners that exposes our heart and shows who we really are.

And that is important. You would think me dishonest or seriously deluded if I told you I was a master craftsman simply because I could use a level and nail molding straight along the wall but the corners had enormous unsightly caverns or overhangs. It does not take much of a Christian to act like one when life is going along smooth and easy. What kind of Christians we really are is made evident when we get to a corner that we did not expect.

Five years of study and I was ready to go. And the molding came out well, all but one piece. I’ve got some tricks I’m going to try in order to fix it. But if I am unsuccessful I will be pulling that piece of molding down and starting over again. I know where I made the mistake, and I know what to watch out for and how to avoid it in the future.

And so with the Christian life. Maybe you thought you were doing well because the molding of your nice, neat, tidy life looked so good. Then you came to an unexpected corner in life, something you didn’t want or anticipate, and the way you coped with it is a shame and embarrassment to you. Don’t wallow there. Learn from it, and start over.

John writes, "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense-- Jesus Christ, the Righteous One" (1 John 2:1). God stands ready to forgive when you mess up a corner. That’s not to say he wants you to leave your bad attempt in place. You must fix it if you can, and where you can’t you must learn from it and do it right or at least better next time.

The reality of your Christian life is not at all seen when life runs smoothly, by default, as it were. The reality of your Christian life is to be seen in how you cope at the corners.