Bright late-afternoon morning sunlight splashed into the window of the dark little carpentry shop. But Joseph only felt darkness looming deep inside him.
This is the end….He’s not even gone yet, but I’m already missing him, he thought, gingerly stroking his rough hands over the freshly carved cedar chest.
“Our finest work!” He exclaimed, admiring their last project.
He thought of how his stepson had grown up in this shop, quietly playing in the sawdust, next to him, as he worked. He smiled as he remembered how he’d first taught him how to hammer with a piece of stone. Often the small boy would bang his thumb. The pain was excruciating, especially for a child. But his stepson never cried, never complained. Then there were the times the young boy would get sawdust trapped in his eyes---even more agonizing than smashed fingers.
By age 15 he’d made him a business partner. It was “Joseph and Son.” For the next 15 year years, as they worked, meticulously, side-by-side, Joseph trained his stepson in everything he knew about carpentry. Because trees were scarce you couldn’t allow for mistakes as every cut, every sanding had to be just right.
Together they’d cut down trees and squared up logs to be used as beams. They’d labored long days and nights with hand axes. It was hard work, but they were proud of their trade. Their rugged hands showed everyone in town that they were skilled carpenters.
As Joseph put away his tools he thought of the first time he had held the chisel in his stepson‘s awkward young hands, teaching him to carve. The other tools----the axe, bow drill, saw, and mallet all had special memories in his heart. Together they’d fashioned everything from doors, windows, tables, shelves, and chests.
His stepson walked into the shop and began helping him clean up. Joseph said, with tears stinging his eyes, “I hope you know just how proud I am of you, son!”
Laying down a mallet on the shelf, his stepson walked over to him. Now a man, towering over him, he said, humbly, “Thanks, Dad, but you’re the one who taught me all I know.”
Joseph couldn’t hold back any longer. He’d been raised to believe that men don’t cry, but a bucket of tears gushed uncontrollably from his sad brown eyes as he opened his mouth to give his final parting words. They tumbled out like tools in an overstuffed closet.
“Son, I know I can’t hold you back. You have another job to do that’s much greater… Just don’t forget me or what we’ve shared here together….”
His heart was flooded with mixed feelings. He reminded him how they’d worked long hours to finish the huge order of dining room chairs for the wedding held in their little town last month. And, then there was their latest masterpiece—the cedar chest they’d chiseled for Mom. She, too, was already grieving, knowing her oldest son had to leave home.
Pulling his father close to his side, his stepson gently brushed away hot tears. ”Dad, you know that my work here has come to an end, but the lessons I’ve learned here, working by your side, will never leave me.”
Joseph knew he had done his job. It had ended. Now it was time to give him back to his real father. But as a stepfather, he still felt insecure.
“Just don’t forget our sawdust lessons,” he said, telling him good-bye for the last time. Besides carpentry, Joseph had also taught him how to walk with God.
A year later, Joseph traveled to Galilee. Looking up, after his long journey, he froze in shock as he saw his stepson, again. He stood tall in a flowing, white robe, teaching and preaching on the side of a mountain. He listened, spellbound, joining the vast crowd, as his stepson taught….
“... Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"
Most everyone in the crowd was clueless. But not the proud, old carpenter, seated at the back.
Joseph had never been prouder of his stepson.
You didn’t forget your sawdust lessons. And, yes, son, this is your finest work.
*Matthew 7:1-3, NIV
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