Fathom Mag
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Laboring for Generations You’ll Never Meet

The wood that waited 100 years to become art.

Published on:
December 10, 2019
Read time:
3 min.
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I sat in the Cathedral of Saint Pierre in Geneva, Switzerland next to the choir section with hand-carved images of the apostles. There is a quiet peace that envelops this place. There is no rushing here, only a beckoning to contemplation.

The oak used to make these carvings were soaked in saltwater for one hundred years before the artisans deem it ready to carve. The craftsman who placed that oak in the water had faith that not in one, not in two, but in three generations’ time, God would provide an artist worthy of sculpting that very wood into something for future generations to be inspired by. He trusted the coming generations to be faithful in keeping the wood immersed in water so it would be ready one hundred years on.

The oak used to make these carvings were soaked in saltwater for one hundred years before the artisans deem it ready to carve.

Longevity is a word sometimes reserved for pension investments where you want to see a return for your money in your retirement. But here looking at this beautiful old wood reminds me that there are many things beyond just my old age. After its one hundred year wait, this wood became images of apostles standing in Geneva as a reminder to worshippers for five hundred years of the greatest story. It looks like they could easily go on reminding worshipers for another five hundred, no problem.

Why? How? When this wood was assigned for carving, it was treated with care and purpose. The craftsman knew that saltwater would preserve it for lifetimes longer if he (and his grandsons) were patient. To choose to keep the wood and not make a table for use next week cost them on different levels. They wouldn’t benefit from that tree’s produce. It would cost them space to store the wood in a water bath, it cost time in the initial preparation of the wood, and time regularly adding salted water to maintain the preservation process. It cost them money as they couldn’t sell the wood for fuel or furniture and lastly, satisfaction as they wouldn’t see the finished product.

Their faith saw these costs as worth it. And today, I agree with them. I am thankful for their and other generations who have taken care of this wooden artwork. So we can delight in the apostles depicted on it and the antique wood itself. You could say that this artwork is now priceless since the time to complete the project was so vast. It stands in its rightful place—alongside fellow Christian believers who praise our eternal God. He is the same God of six hundred years ago who saw the wood resting in its salty bath, looked on as it was carved to bring an image to life, and who knows the name of each worshipper who’s stood in front of it not only until today—but for years to come. 

Is there anything I am ready to sow and entrust to the next generations to tend so their kids can enjoy the benefits from it?

Is there anything I am ready to sow and entrust to the next generations to tend so their kids can enjoy the benefits from it? Something I may start but see none of the fruit, like these Swiss artisans? Am I forgetting about something that’s been entrusted to me by the generation before—any work that I need to pick up only to hand off again? In a pew in the Cathedral of Saint Pierre in Geneva, Switzerland, I recognize that my labor is not for my glory, but to be faithful with what God has given me to do in the hope it’s a blessing for the nations and generations to come.

So as I sit in this historic place, I ponder with God—what do I need to carve out more time, emotional energy, and money for? To invest in my work, helping to train young leaders, which will not only equip them but future generations? Where do I need to look up and see with God’s timeless eyes beyond what I can imagine? What will young leaders fifty years from now need that I can help prepare for them in my lifetime?

Patience Marshall
Patience Marshall grew up in Glasgow, Scotland and now lives in Burtigny, Switzerland. She works with Youth with a Mission (YWAM) in various roles to equip and disciple young leaders. She is about to launch a website & blog for emerging leaders, and currently writing a book to sit alongside this website. You can follow her on facebook—whomealeader—and learn more about YWAM Burtigny at jemburtigny.ch

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