My dad kept an old whetstone wheel down at his shop on the ranch. It had belonged to my grandfather — Mom’s dad, Lawley Reagan. it looked a lot like the one pictured above. Dad used it to sharpen axes and hatchets and knives before it fell apart sometime in the late fifties. The grit was coarse, but Dad could put a fine edge on just about any tool.
I attended a memorial service on Saturday for a great woman — Cortina Orr. Her radiant joy lightened many a dark day for a host of disciples and friends. Her memorial was held on one of those bright and sunny days typical of north Texas in early May. The cloud of her passing dissipated in the shining hope of resurrection and reunion.
Still, she’s gone for now, and that hurts. So, as I was sitting there listening to one of the finest memorial addresses I’ve ever heard (thanks Bill Brewer), and considering how painful it must be for her husband and my dear friend, Rodney, and for her grown children Ariel and Bradley, this little parable came to mind.
Once upon a time there was a little carving knife, fresh from the forge and eager to be pressed into service. He came from a long line of carvers, with specialty bowl gouges and planes in his lineage — and, of course, a few whittlers from the poor side of town. Together his family had made bowls, and spinning tops, and even some fine furniture. But he was proudest of the nativity sets, carved in fine detail by his father and grandfather. The edge on his father’s blade could shave the whiskers off an olivewood Joseph, and shape wonder in the eyes of a pinewood shepherd on the night of Jesus’s birth.
The little carving knife wanted to be fitted with a rosewood handle immediately, and to get to work on a great piece of art.
His father looked down at him and smiled, though his joy was tempered with the knowledge of what must come first.
“Son,” he said, “you have great dreams, but you have no edge. The master carver can’t use you until you submit to the whetstone wheel.”
The little fellow swallowed hard. He was hoping to avoid the pain of sharpening, but he knew he would remain dull and useless without it.
So he submitted to the hand of the master carver, and he held him against the spinning wheel at just the right angle. Sparks flew! Small bits of dull metal were ground away, and the little carving knife didn’t know if he would be able to stand the pain. Occasionally, the master mercifully added a bit of water to the wheel so the little carving knife wouldn’t overheat and break under the strain.
Finally, it was over. The master carver fitted the little carving knife with a beautiful rosewood handle that his father had carved just for him.
The pain of sharpening had rendered him ready for service — with the knowledge that an occasional light sharpening would be necessary to maintain his keen edge.
We love you, Rodney. The Master Carver has held you to the whetstone recently in Cortina’s passing. He’s giving you a fine edge indeed, my friend.
And by His grace, He will continue to use you to shape lives as you have shaped mine.