The Lord's Purpose
|Photo courtesy of 2355 Photography|
My adolescence was filled with a lot of late nights spent drinking and carrying on. Even though I was usually surrounded by a lot of people, I was alone in most every aspect of my life. Collectively, my friends and I were searching. We were searching for a purpose, but instead, all we found was a few moments of satisfaction from a bottle of liquor or from a few moments underneath bed sheets.
With high school fading fast into the rear view mirror, I decided that I needed to get away from my life. I packed my canvas back pack with some new white shirts, a pair of pants, and little else. But where would I go? I didn’t have much money, and I wasn’t very interested in making more.
A family friend said he knew a guy in the North Carolina mountains that I could stay with for the summer. That seemed good enough. Anything seemed good, really. Maybe the difference in altitude would give me a better view of where I was headed.
I arrived by bus in a small town called Milton. I was told to ask for Max. But who should I ask? The bus driver? I was regretting my decision already. I went into a nearby gas station, and asked him if he knew a Max. Surprisingly, he said “Everybody knows Max,” and he pointed towards a store front down the block.
Max made rocking chairs for a living. He was in his mid-sixties with a beard as big as a bee hive. He showed me around the shop. He had a lot of tools, but they all looked to be about as old as him. What was I doing in Milton, NC? It seemed like I was about to have a few of the most boring weeks of my life. I eyed the rest of Main Street for a liquor store.
The longer I stayed with Max, the more I realized that he was probably the happiest person I had ever met. One afternoon, while I was helping him fill a truck with scrap pieces of wood, I asked him what his secret was. “How are you so happy all the time?” He threw a piece of oak into the truck and smiled wide. He said, “God showed me long ago my purpose here on this planet. He showed me my purpose, and I fulfill that purpose every day. It fills me with more joy than I could ever ask for.”
Max was put on this earth to make rocking chairs. It was as simple as that. He made his first dollar making a chair for his mother. He met his wife when she came to him commissioning a chair for her dad. His church pews have the same stain that he uses on each of his chairs. He re-stains them every three months.
In many ways, Max was the life blood of the town of Milton. Whenever someone was having a bad day, they would head on down to Max’s shop and chat with him for an hour or so as he sanded a piece of strong wood. I’m sure Max saved more marriages than Dr. Phil. It seemed as though everyone gravitated towards him. I couldn’t argue. I mean, I was there too.
On my last day with Max, he gave me a pat on the head and said “Many plans are in a man's mind, but it is the Lord's purpose for him that will stand.” I wanted to talk about it more, but my bus was about to board across the street.
Before that moment, it seemed like my main purpose in life was partying. But really, the partying was just a way of coping with the fear that I wouldn’t find a purpose. I was afraid that God wouldn’t speak to me, or that when he did, I wouldn’t listen. But Max helped me see that it is impossible not to listen to God when he talks. I never could imagine being happy making rocking chairs for 50 years, but Max showed me how much I had to learn.
When I returned home from that summer, my life wasn’t the same. I was no longer running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I didn’t need to drink until I passed out or hit on girls I didn’t know. Instead, I had found the strength to wait for my purpose to unfold. I sat out on my parent’s front porch, rocking back and forth, and I would listen.