The story began when I was put on firewood detail in the first week of a summer-long forestry camp, an in-the-field training session to back the book learning of the final two years of college classes in my pursuit of a degree in forestry. Somebody put a chainsaw in my hands and the afternoon yielded not only a stack of wood but a nickname that stuck.
“Chainsaw” became my identity, due largely to the efforts of a very determined fellow forester and friend. Because he called me that so persistently, soon everybody else did, too, including classmates, professors, even the dean of the College of Natural Resources who handed out the diplomas on graduation day. For two years I went by little else.
The years passed and we all went our separate ways, to wherever the jobs were available. One by one I lost touch with the people I'd gone to school with. The nickname was packed away in the trunk along with other treasures from those years, followed eventually by my hard hat, cruiser's vest, and corked boots, when I left the field of forestry for the fun of raising a family as a stay-at-home mom.
Decades passed. And then a Sunday morning found me visiting a church in a nearby town with my family. A long relationship with another church body had ended when my husband's office moved to a neighboring town and we began looking for a new place of worship closer to home. Spiritually I was feeling lost and discouraged, cut off from ministry activities of the past and wondering if God still had a use for me in the years ahead.
Everything about the church that morning was great, from the coffee in the foyer to the friendliness of the congregation, and the worship service was alive and vibrant. When it was time for the pastor to speak, he came up to the platform bearing a bulky case of some kind, and as he welcomed the congregation he said that God woke him at four in the morning and told him to illustrate his message with a tool he had in his garage.
He sat on the top step of the platform and began telling a story as he unfastened the locks on the case. He owned a piece of property on which he wished to build a house, but the acreage needed a lot of work in preparation. It was overgrown with trees and shrubs, and he had a long day of cutting and clearing ahead of him.
I didn't think anything of it at first when he then pulled a chainsaw out of the case, held it in his hands, and continued with his tale. It wasn't until he began speaking to it directly that I suddenly didn't hear a man talking to his tool any longer, but God speaking directly to me. “Chainsaw,” he said, “I know the plans I have for you...plans for good and not for evil...you're going to build me a house. I knew I was going to need you...”
My eyes popped; my heart pounded. I listened carefully to every word He said, scribbling them down in my notebook and later pasting them into my journal where I could find them the next time I was attacked by the demons of doubt and disbelief.
God called me by a name that only He and I remembered, speaking the hope, encouragement and purpose I so desperately needed to hear into my future using an identity from my long-ago past. I left the building excited and encouraged, filled with new hope. Ironically, the message that morning was on the fourth dimension, how even the smallest details of our days are deliberately put in place by God for use in some distant time when He will call them into play. The events of our days are carefully orchestrated by a loving Father who has good plans for us and destinies we have the opportunity to fulfill.
As if to emphasize the point, I happened to read a story about a family that lost a pet tortoise during a renovation of their home. They assumed it got out during the chaos of builders coming and going and leaving doors and gates open in their wake. When the patriarch of the family died some thirty years later, the children gathered to clean out the upper storage room that was packed with old furniture and junk the old man had pulled from the surrounding neighborhood and saved. There they discovered the long lost family pet, still alive and thriving, having survived perhaps on termites found in all the old wood.
We never know what treasure we have deliberately or unconsciously packed away in life experiences we thought were over and done. Every detail of our lives is important to God, and nothing is forgotten. When we least expect it He might pull a long lost pet name or similar detail from our past and use it to direct our future. He has a work yet for each of us to do to help Him build his house; inside of us are the tools He'll use to benefit somebody else. He calls them forth using words our hearts respond to, hoping our feet will likewise move in His direction. A fantastic future can be just a footstep of faith away.
“We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.”
(Romans 8:28 AMP)