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Tending Your Edges

As I get a little older it never ceases to amaze me that I have made it this far and am still in one piece…more or less. Like you, I bear physical scars from my forty-something years that testify to the fact that my guardian angel has gray hair, frayed wings, and bags under his eyes from sleepless nights. No doubt this dear one is pleading for the Lord’s return to gather me up just as much as I am, if not more so, just to find a little relief.

My left thumb is marked by a slight irregularity next to the nail where I nearly cut it off. If God hadn’t seen fit to bestow us with fingernails, my portside thumb would be one-third shorter than the original plans called for. For some auspicious occasion, which I can’t really recall now, my granddad gave me a hatchet. It wasn’t, by any standard, a good tool, and it wouldn’t hold an edge even in the leather case. I was working on a hatchet project one morning with my left hand obediently holding my work below the very dull edge. Since the blade wouldn’t go through the wood on its own it only seemed reasonable to hit the head of the hatchet with a block of wood. The rest is history except, thankfully, for the end of my left thumb. You should know before I move on to make my point, that my thumb did send an immediate message to command central which I remember vividly: "That was really stupid!"

This is only one of the experiences that crossed my mind a few mornings ago as I read Hebrews 5: 11, "Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing." There is a great deal to be said about this verse, but I want only to mention two things: Notice first that these readers became dull; they weren’t dull to begin with. And it only follows that if it happened to them, it could happen to me. Second: As I’ve thought about it, I don’t ever remember buying something dull. An instrument designed to carry an edge has one on it when purchased and then gets dull. How?

Like my little hatchet, if a tool isn’t tempered well it will never hold a good edge. It didn’t matter if I was hacking at dandelions or a tree; the edge amalgamated itself into the hatchet’s head. A tool designed to cut can also become dull through neglect. Even my Swiss army knife becomes dull if I take too many camping trips without touching up its edge. Dullness can occur through abuse, like cutting things you aren’t supposed to cut. There isn’t anything that will send you back to the tailgate of the truck to sharpen your chain saw like cutting into the dirt. Trying to cut with the wrong tool will dull it. Chopping wood with a butcher knife will get very little wood cut and leave you a very frustrated butcher as well.

We have all known folks who are new Christians and get thrust into a leadership role before they are tempered to the task. Many of them grow dull with defeat. Have you ever seen a public school teacher thrust into a teaching role at church and wondered why the lesson and the teacher were so dull? Just because someone is gifted as a schoolteacher doesn’t mean they have the spiritual gift of teaching. Neglecting your own spiritual edge by depending upon others too much, or failing to tend to your spiritual wellbeing, will yield dullness as well.

Two things to remember: a) Once an edge has been dulled it is difficult to restore. b) Any good Scout will tell you, there isn’t anything quite as dangerous as a dull edge. Both of these principles apply to people as well as tools.

I learned several major lessons from my little silver hatchet. First, it goes easier on left hands if they get to work above the blade; second, a cheap edge is a poor buy. Even more valuable, though, is the emphasis made in my mind about the necessity of keeping myself sharp. A dull Christian is a tough character to put an edge on. And there might not be anyone more dangerous than a dull Christian.

Christ came in order that we might, through his death, have an edge put on us; an edge of hope, meaning, and life as those regenerated by the grace of God and called as His own. Further, He blessed us with the Spirit to temper and maintain the edge. When you think about it, now is a great time for touching up our edges.

Preston Gillham

About the Author

As a co-founder, Preston Gillham led Lifetime for 30 years. Preston is a writer, speaker, and leadership guide. He has authored numerous articles and several books including No Mercy and Battle for the Round Tower. He blogs on “Life and Leadership”. More about Preston, his writings, speaking, and his consulting practice can be located at PrestonGillham.com.