We are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10, NIV).
Sandpaper people, the people who rub us the wrong way, are not only a reality of life but a gift from God. God has used these difficult relationships as catalysts in my life through which He has lovingly upset my comfortable plans and purposefully redirected my self-ordered steps. The results have often been chaotic and unsettling, but always life changing!
Our son, Jered, has played football since elementary school. As a junior in high school, Jered experienced his first surgery to repair a broken bone in his foot. The orthopedic surgeon explained exactly what he would do during surgery. “First of all, I will remove the scar tissue that has formed around the break. I will then insert a metal screw to connect the broken bones.” As he spoke, I was comforted by my mind’s depiction of a shiny thin and smooth metal screw resting gently in my son’s foot. There are times when ignorance is a blessing.
The surgery went well. When I took Jered in for a follow-up visit, the doctor x-rayed Jered’s foot to make sure it was healing properly. The doctor walked in, smiling and waving an x-ray in his hand. “Your foot is healing beautifully,” he announced with great pride. Curious, I asked the doctor if we could see the x-ray. As he slapped it up against the light board, I was horrified to see a thick, long metal bolt. In fact, on closer examination, I was certain the beginnings of rust could be seen on that barbaric screw jammed up into my son’s precious bone.
Seeing the look on my face, the doctor assured me that everything was fine. I was far from convinced, and had a few questions that needed answering – immediately. “Is that screw supposed to look like that or did you put the wrong screw in my son’s foot? Will he be able to play football? Will that enormous screw set off airport security detectors? Will Jered’s foot ever be as strong as it was before the surgery?” I asked. The doctor listened patiently, smiled, and said, “Well, now that you mention it, I need to be honest and tell you Jered’s foot will not be as strong as it was before.” The evil doctor then grinned and said, “It will actually be stronger.”
I find it interesting that all through life, the greatest strength is forged in broken places. The same is true in dealing with difficult people. God is not committed to our comfort. God is committed to creating His character within us. One way He accomplishes that goal is through the abrasive and coarse work of sandpaper people as they grind off and sand away our rough edges, even to the point of breaking. Suffering comes in many ways, but always with the purpose of making us strong enough to endure pain and weak enough to rely on God.
Many times, it is through difficult relationships that we experience the most pain. Peter writes that God will “make everything right” which indicates the promise that He will take our circumstances and relationships, adjust them and make the broken pieces fit together in order to equip us for service. “Making everything right” can also be translated in the original language as “mending nets.” A fisherman’s net was a vital part of his livelihood. A broken net meant no fish. One broken net affected the fisherman’s ability to make a living and provide for his family. It was imperative for the fisherman to keep his nets in working condition, constantly mending the broken places. Every time we are broken, but allow God to do the mending, we become stronger.
Difficult relationships and the brokenness they bring can make us either bitter or better. It is our choice. We can insist on comfort and forfeit character, or we can embrace brokenness, knowing that God will use it for our good.
Sandpaper people are grindstones. Whether they grind us down or polish us up depends on what we are made of. Harry Truman said: “Fame is a vapor, popularity is an accident, riches take wings, those who cheer today may curse tomorrow and only one thing endures – character.”
I believe sandpaper people voice the silent prayer that someone will be strong enough to stop their vicious cycle of offensive behavior. God calls us to be that strong someone. I also believe God allows difficult relationships to form within the realm of our daily walk in order to strengthen us for the very task of life.
Taken from Mary Southerland’s book, Sandpaper People.