The familiar bang of the screen door sounded as I made my morning trek across the cobblestone path. Over breakfast Kathy told me the new minister was coming for a visit, stirring up thoughts of the day my father breathed his last breath. It was the day I stopped believing. Shaking off thoughts of the past, opening the doors to my workshop, I poured myself a cup of coffee and began working. A couple of hours later a car came up the driveway and a young man stepped out.
What was Kathy thinking, anyway?
Reaching out my hand, "You must be Rev. White, the new minister my wife has been raving about."
"Mr. Doyle, I've heard great things about you, too, and have been privileged to see some of your amazing work."
"Call me Jim. Come in and let me find Kathy."
"It's you I came to see, if you aren't too busy."
What would he want to see me about?
"We can talk in my shop."
"This is quite a place you have here!"
"Thanks! My father built this shop. Those ten large doors, you see, slide open. My father loved the outdoors and wanted it to have the feel of working outside. He was a believer and he said it made him feel closer to God."
"Did you learn the skill of woodcarving from your father?"
"From the age of twelve every spare minute was spent in this shop with my father. We worked side by side until his untimely death more than thirty years ago." I turned away as pain gripped the pit of my stomach. Cancer ravished my fatherís body until it finally won."
"A painful experience like that tends to stick with you."
"The God who allowed my father, who never harmed anyone, to suffer a horrendous death is not a God I choose to embrace. So you made a trip out here for nothing. IÖI donít mean any disrespect."
"Actually, that's not why I'm here. We have a large empty space behind the podium at church. It is the perfect place for a cross. Would you be willing to carve a cross depicting Jesus sacrifice?"
"Reverend, I'm not a believer, why would you want me to make this cross?"
"Whether you're a believer or not, I believe in the gift He has placed within you. Here, I will leave my Bible with some passages marked for reference."
"Ok, Reverend I'll give it a try."
I opened the Bible and began reading the marked passages. Memories of my father reading these same scriptures with me on his knee came rushing back like a breath of fresh air. The hardness in my heart began to soften. Choosing not to deal with it, I turned my attention to making the cross.
Carefully selecting a large block of wood, using my carving tools I formed the basic shape of a man. Using smaller tools I carved with intricacy the fine details in the palms of His hands. My fingers quivered as they brushed across the holes of sacrifice I had made. His face was a challenge, but with my heart melting I continued. Reflecting on the scriptures, a vision of His countenance filled my mind's eye. I began to carve according to the vivid impressions now flowing across my heart. Each chiseled stroke of His image melted away another year of hardness, drawing me into the depths of Him. I felt He was coming alive within the palms of my own hands.
Hanging His body on the cross, sweat pouring down my face, I thought of his sweat beading like great droplets of blood as He knelt in agony and pain in the Garden of Gethsemane. Placing the nails into the engraved holes of sacrifice in his hands and feet pierced my very being. I felt like I had been transported back in time to His crucifixion. Pushing the crown of thorns onto His head penetrated the depths of my heart. Tears washed down my face as I ran my hands along the details carved to represent His blood. I placed my hand in the wound in His side weeping for the pain He endured.
"Father, why did You allow Your Son to die such a horrific death?"
Revelations of love flooded my soul answering every question while cleansing and healing the deep places in my heart, enabling me to release my father and my soul into His care.
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