There was something cathartic about sitting on the carrying beam while staining the rails on our deck. I had the radio on. I was listening to my favorite music. I went up and down with the brush. Up one side and down the other. I spent three hours one day and two-and-a-half the next. I felt satisfied when I finally walked away after the second coat. Of course, there is still more to do.

The deck project began as a simple repair job. I noticed some “squishy” places and was worried that the decking could break loose and somebody could get hurt. In talking with a friend, it quickly became apparent that, between the rot and some design flaws, it was going to be a much bigger undertaking. It was going to require some knowledge and skills that I didn’t have. So, I hired a friend of a friend to do the job.

Lori laughs when I say it, but I spent a summer between college semesters working with my uncle. He was a building contractor. I was a carpenter’s aid. I learned a lot about framing and roofing houses that summer. Unfortunately, Lori says, it didn’t stick. She’s been the home repair guru in our family over the years. But every once in a while, she lets me put that experience to good use.

As I was climbing a ladder and painting the backsides of the posts, the thought hit me that I was finally putting some of that youthful experience to work. It felt good. The truth is that no experience we have in life is ever wasted. Think about Moses. He spent 80 years preparing for that moment when he would lead the children of Israel out of Egypt.

He was raised in the court of Pharaoh and received the best education in the world. He was groomed to be a leader and an influencer. I wonder what he was thinking as he spent the next 40 years in the Midian wilderness as a shepherd. He was undoubtedly the best-read, most educated shepherd there ever was. Nevermind the fact that he had the unenviable task of herding and protecting the flock against their own foolish ways and all sorts of predictors.

Yet, it was all these skills that equipped him to answer the call of God when it came. God knew exactly what he was doing when he spoke to Moses out of the burning bush. Moses’ life experiences had prepared him to be the deliverer that was needed for that moment in history. He had the ability and stature to stand up to Pharaoh. He had the patience and wherewithal to lead the wayward band of pilgrims.

It all happened with God’s perfect timing. The apostle Paul says in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love the Lord, to them who are called according to his purpose.” In other words, God doesn’t waste anything. He uses whatever experiences we have, good, bad, mundane or exhilarating, to mold and shape us for the work he is calling us to do.

It took 40 years for me to put to use the skills I picked up that summer. Last week it happened. So don’t ever entertain the thought that you are wasting your time doing what you are doing. God knows what you need and the skills he wants you to have. Look at every job as an opportunity to learn what you need to know for the next thing God will be calling you to. Remember: He’s the one holding the brush as he paints the balustrades of your life and mine.

The Rev. Cal Lord is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Westerly.

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