A Cut Above, On Average

My name wasn’t on the list. My high school basketball hopes were dashed after the first tryout. I didn’t make “the cut”.

History disputes whether the phrase originated with the butcher or the tailor. It is used by hair stylists, landscapers, arborists, by snobs who think they are better than others and by folks who are made to think they “don’t make the cut”.

In leaders I look for people who are a cut above – not in terms of social status, but in terms of visionary capacity and the ability to inspire – to stay the course when necessary and chart new ones when it’s called for.

In a world where most of us are “average”, it can be challenging to live in a land where we are constantly having to rise above others. What is the thing you can say on Twitter or the Facebook post that gets you more followers for your blog? What is the image you need for Instagram or the video on Snapchat that will stand out among the 7 billion hits it gets every day?

For me right now I associate it with a carpenter – a holder of the tape measure, pencil and saw, a worker of wood. Take the measure more than once – the measure of yourself – in order to get as true a picture as you can. Optimize the materials; utilize the space; don’t waste resources. See it pretty and make it right; and don’t worry about how it compares to what anyone else is doing. Derive some pleasure from the process of picking out the lumber – eyeball it to make sure it’s straight. How will we fit this in the car? Enjoy the process of tying it down and getting it home without incident. You are not trying to ‘stand out’; you just want to get this home without taking out someone’s hood ornament.

Where are we going to put these twelve-foot long pieces of wood? Figure it out. And enjoy the process. It doesn’t have to be the best workshop in the world; it just has to work for you. Try not to knock anything over when you’re moving this stuff around … and watch out for your head! Do no harm. Is it enough to know that you didn’t cut anyone down? That you worked such that it was kind of like a simple, silent prayer – doing something for the sense of accomplishment that comes with getting it done?

This doesn’t require a debate; it requires discipline. Just follow him. Notice how natural his gait is, how unpretentious his attitude, how welcoming his demeanor. Carry the wood, rough hewn; and secure it. It doesn’t matter who is guilty or who is innocent; that’s to miss the point! I hear the pounding below me as wood joins wood. We’re making something here. It’s a cut above. It’s cut from within. It’s two-by-fours rising to meet floor joists. It’s earth reaching for heaven. It’s the hammer on flesh and the cry of pain. It’s the twist of fate that makes the carpenter the tool itself, the one upon whom the burden rests. The nailer becomes the nailed and suddenly every sinner rises, the down-and-out now seeing themselves as a cut above the lies they have been told. A simple thing is pieced together and the miracle of it emerges. I am the average guy walking in the way of the one who is a cut above … and really, it brings tears to my eyes.

Mark Demers

Want to talk about sex, politics, spirituality? So do I. I grew up in a religious home in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Our country was reeling from assassinations and the devastation of the Viet Nam War. Looking for something beautiful, I got a degree in music, married the love of my life and had children. Looking for God, I then went to seminary. Looking for something that might transform the world, I became a local church pastor. Now, I’m always looking for people who want to talk about important things. I cherish conversations with emerging leaders, people who are antsy to try an idea they believe would change the world for the better. I’d would love to hear from you.