I was reading a British author, Caryll Houselander, when I came across her quote: “Yet Christ welcomes the cross. He embraces it, he takes into his arms, as a man takes that which he loves into his arms. He lays his beautiful hands on it tenderly, those strong hands of a carpenter that are so familiar with the touch of wood…”
I had a difficult time with these words. Why?
At some point during his adolescence, Jesus, the Divine Son, became fully aware of his calling and his sacrifice. But at the same time that he was understanding his mission, Jesus, the man, was also training with his foster father in the trade of carpentry. He worked with wood daily—carving it, shaping it, and bending it to his will. And all the while he knew that his destiny lay on a tree—his arms outspread dying for the entirety of humanity. How do you work with the very device that will be your death? Confronting it daily next to your human father? Confronting it for years.
I’ve heard that we are grieving right now as we social distance. Perhaps we can apply the stages of grief to Jesus’ profession of carpentry from his perspective.
Denial. Why should this sacrifice for others be up to me?
Anger. I have to endure such pain for others? That doesn’t seem fair. Why shouldn’t others have to account for their wrongdoings?
Bargaining. Perhaps there is another way. If I’m allowed to stay with my mother and just teach the people, heal the people, turn the people back to You, Father…Take this cup from me. (I think Jesus thought this more than once.)
Depression. Those first 40 days in the desert, wandering, not eating, contemplating, praying. Do I have the strength to see this through?
Acceptance. “Man does not live by bread alone, but by ever word that comes from the mouth of God.” My Father will see me through this.
Go back to the wood—entering the wood shop of your daily trade and being reminded of your demise....
Picking up the tools to begin work. Confronting it silently and daily next to your human father. And next to your Father (for our Heavenly Father never leaves us, it’s us that walk away from Him time to time). You do this daily task for years. And Years. Your foster father gently guides your hands and you learn through the hands of love. And your Heavenly Father guides you through the pains in your heart with Love. And it comes to you.
Love. Love is what motivates you. Love for your earthly father, your Heavenly Father, your mother who will see you through your trials til the end, and those around you who you created in union with Your Father. Love drives you. And you begin to look forward to working with the wood, bending it and shaping it, making it into beautiful and helpful articles to be used in daily life. Perhaps even accepting the pain of the slivers, all because you know your destiny—because the cross ahead is temporary. Its societal shame becomes the ultimate Glory. All those you love with be with you at the last.
There’s another stage of grief in my mind. Maybe it’s not a stage, maybe it’s more like when you emerge from grief.
When Jesus was baptized, the heavens opened up and His Father said, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.”
Don’t we ache for that last part? To hear those we love, those we sacrifice for, say that they are well please with us? What a grace that would be!
Perhaps right now, in this waiting and suffering, this our investment because we desire to hear those words of grace later…well pleased.
Right now we are facing fear in disease and death—facing our reality alone cooped up in our homes. Facing that we are not enough, that we are not in control.
Oh that we would let The Carpenter shape us! How much happier would we be if we could let Jesus shape us into what He sees for us instead of we what see as ourselves? We could become the useful chair or table for others to lean on, or the beacon by using beautiful words and actions that give relief to others. What would it take for us to let The Carpenter shape us?
Suffering our cross. Letting the gentle hands of Our Father and His Son guide us through this time filled with slivers. Letting the Holy Spirit fill us with hope instead of dread.
Take this time to go through the stages of grief while we endure this waiting. And know that deliverance will come…that time when we hear Our Father say, “This is my child, with whom I am well pleased!”