This past fall I got to use a chainsaw for the first time. I say “got to”, because if you’re a man and haven’t used a chainsaw, you need to stop reading this right now and go use one and then come back and keep reading and you might be able to appreciate the invigoratingly manly satisfaction I experienced in such an activity**. Seriously, grow a beard and go do it and thank me later. I digress…
In my case, I had a huge old dead tree in our yard that I was going to cut down and use for firewood. After a long time cutting, I finally got the tree down and after another long time, I cut it into a few sections. They were way too big to use for firewood, but I was too worn out to keep cutting! I suspected the chain wasn’t sharp (foreshadowing…), but being inexperienced I thought perhaps chainsawing was just hard work and not much fun (o me of little faith). I wasn’t able to finish the job until the next weekend, so in the meantime I took the chain to get sharpened at Cahall’s John Deere store over in Georgetown.
Little did I know the wonder of a sharp chain.
The next Saturday when I fired up that thing, I was like a Beaver-super-hero on steroids who just had a double-shot of expresso! It was amazingness! Hot knife through butter doesn’t even begin to describe the ease and therefore exuding joy of chainsawing with a sharp chain. I didn’t have a beard at that time but I think I sprouted one while sawing. That’s how incredible it was! In a quarter of the time it took me the weekend before, I had the tree cut up into small pieces. Not only did my work take way less time, it was much more effective and enjoyable because of the sharp chain.
If you’re a lumberjack, a chain is an essential tool for your job. But the best chainsaw in the world is useless with a dull chain. Lumberjacks with dull chains are frustrated and worn out all the time. Similarly, if you find yourself frustrated and worn out in your job, it may not be that you’re in the wrong profession. It may just be that your chain isn’t sharp.
Ecclesiastes 10:10 (NLT) says it this way:
Using a dull ax requires great strength,
so sharpen the blade.
That’s the value of wisdom;
it helps you succeed.
So what’s your chain? What tools do you use to get your job done? Is there a way you can improve what you do or how you do what you do?
How can you sharpen your chain?
For example, I’m a pastor by day (lumberjack by night now that I know the wonder that is the chainsaw). Therefore, being able to craft and deliver an excellent sermon is essential to my job. When I first started preaching several years ago, though, I didn’t enjoy it much. It took me a long time – 30-40 hours a week – to study, write and practice a sermon before I was ready to deliver it. It was hard work. It wore me out. Not to mention I about had an anxiety attack every Saturday night! I could have determined that I wasn’t cut out to be a preacher. But thanks to some encouragement and good coaching, I came to realize my chain just wasn’t sharp. I had to work on becoming a better preacher. Was there a better way to prepare? Was there a quicker way to study and sift through the immense amount of material to cut down on study time? Was there a better way to outline it to make writing go faster? These questions helped me sharpen my chain, but what helped me the most was good old fashioned practice. Getting opportunities to preach again and again and again. Preaching still wears me out sometimes, but by and large I’ve got my prep time down to about 15-20 hours per week and I’m preaching better than when I used to spend 40 hours. And I’m actually enjoying it more because I’m starting to get good at it***. These are all benefits of sharpening your chain!
So what about you? How can you sharpen your chain? Maybe it’s taking a class in order to master Excel because you use spreadsheets and work with numbers on your computer all day. Maybe it’s finding a more efficient way to organize your schedule or manage your time. Maybe it’s writing a script to use for all those phone calls you make to ensure you’re communicating consistently with all those customers.
Whatever you do and however you do it, there’s a way to improve it, save time, and make it more effective. There’s always a way to sharpen your chain.
**Make sure your chain is sharp, though. Seriously. It’s not much fun chain-sawing with a dull chain. More like hard work. Think: forced labor. But with a sharp chain – o baby, baby, like a hot knife through butta, only with wood chips flying everywhere! I could do that all day!!
***And trust God more with it. You can only “sharpen your chain” so much, especially when it comes to preaching. Eventually you have to let go and let God!