I forgot to tell you…

In my whole “don’t touch it” speech I forgot to tell you that I do lightly level-sand the front and back of the guitar with 320 grit sandpaper after a few days on the rack. At this point the lacquer is hard enough that it doesn’t gum up on the sandpaper but still soft enough that the paper removes material just a bit quicker and easier. It takes a significant amount of time off of the final wet sanding, and it gives me a chance to get a sense of the final finish.


There is some risk in this, as there is in all things, but it’s generally worth doing.

Is that a bit of life philosophy sneaking in there? Maybe.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend about risk and reward including both the risk of moving forward and the risk of staying put. The rewards of staying put are consistency, familiarity, and safety, but (for me at least) the risks have always been stagnancy, complacency, and boredom. My mind cannot sit still. I am constantly curious. If I am not learning something new – trying and failing – I lose interest.

On the flip side, sometimes a move is risky. It brings unfamiliarity, anxiety, and possible failure, but the rewards are sometimes (maybe even oftentimes) worth it.

Two years ago I decided it was time for a move. I decided that I was ready to shift gears (and careers) from full-time parish ministry as a pastor to work in an academic library. This wasn’t completely out of the blue as I had worked in an academic library before as a student at Duke, but to many people, it made no sense. Why would I give up the security of what I have for the uncertainty of going back to school, finding a new job, moving my family, (insert reason I’ve lost my mind here), etc….?

For me, it was a no brainer. I have had wonderful opportunities during the last fifteen years in my current vocation – and few regrets – but I was beginning to feel increasingly out of sync with hierarchy and institutional religion, and I knew needed a change. In a conversation on this topic with my wife I remember reminiscing about my time working in the Library at Duke, saying “that was the best job I ever had, I would go back there in a heartbeat.” She replied, of course, “well, why don’t you?” and the die was cast.

I’m not going to lie. On top of everything else, things like the blog and social media began to feel overwhelming. I lost interest in teaching. Writing became tedious. Even woodworking seemed like something I might get back to someday but had little interest in doing now. I think the technical term for this is burnout. That feels about right.

My tendency in these moments is to double down, but this year I took a different route. All of that extra activity led me to make some decisions about re-aligning my time and efforts to let go of some things and spend real time enjoying the others. It was something I needed to do to move forward with some sanity, but now that I’ve leveled out some of the highs and lows I can see what the future looks like a little more clearly and I’m excited about it again.

I don’t really know why I’m writing any of this. My experience is not unique, but maybe that’s the point. Maybe we all need to hear that voice telling us to take a step out of the flow for a moment or two and to take stock. To figure out when and where we are worshipping the wrong things and how these misdirected energies might be taking our attention away from the important things, and robbing us of joy in the process.

Even if it doesn’t take a few years to ask, It’s a question worth a moment’s pause at least.

Stop. Sand everything level. See where you are.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. John says:

    Like a savings account that doesn’t adjust for inflation, the result of staying still is (slowly) moving behind. Your experience is a good reminder for us all that to grow means reaching outside our comfort zone, thanks for sharing it.


  2. Andrew Brant says:

    I love this. Thank you for sharing. I’m about to take a big leap myself, out of comfort – safety / complacency – boredom and into woodworking full time. To me, it’s a pretty similar question – I would go back to fixing antiques on the sidewalk in Chicago with a friend in a heartbeat. So why not? And use everything I’ve learned since then, making all kinds of new pieces? I appreciate you sharing. And hope you find everything you need.


  3. pat says:

    You said it all in a quote from a Church wall a while back. Thank you and Good luck. P.


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