He presses the cross into my hands, a rugged, delicate thing he pulls from his pocket I don’t know how; it seems bigger than pocket-sized. I run my thumb over the intricate carving on the stem and then let it rest on one palm so I can dip my fingertips into the tiny ravines. I imagine his knife, knicking out the seal over the crossbeams, a brilliant star that seems to bloom right at the spot where Jesus’ back would have bruised against the wood as he ached for a breath. At the end of the posts in every direction, my friend has carved another cross into the detail. The Cross has birthed many, many more crosses; many more lives surrendered for love. Love gave; love gives.
“You made this, didn’t you?”
“Yea,” he says, “it’s not perfect, but…” His voice trails off like there’s nothing left to say, and he lifts his hand, turning it the air, a so-so, dismissive motion.
I look down at his gift, this raw hope he just pressed into my hand. It looks perfect to me, like part of a stained glass window remembered in wood. It’s a tree cut and hewn, pressed solid, love-shaped into the Tree; given-life reshaped into life-given. My friend’s gift is a work of art and the art is our inheritance, our birthright. Every given life God carves right into a life that gives more and more life. The seed dies and life blooms beneath His fingers. Love made this cross, and it’s perfect to me.
“I love it,” I say, grinning at my friend. “It’s absolutely beautiful.” I flip it over. On the back he’s written his name, thin block letters on the back of the cross. Somewhere, there’s a cross with my name on it too.
I don’t know how we became friends, or if we ever would have except for God. God does that, bonds you to people you’d not otherwise have known. Sometimes you’ve just been introduced and it already feels like an eternity, like there’s something–someone, more like–in each other you recognize that has nothing to do with skin and bone. I have a few friends like that, and this man is my friend. He gives good strong hugs even though his body often fails him, even though pain has been a constant companion. He never speaks much of that though, almost always says he’s doing okay, while he wraps his arms around my shoulders.
“Thank you so much,” I say to him, standing on tiptoes to give him a hug. It’s not enough—those words—but that’s God’s economy. Love and grace come unearned and priceless, a surprise too expensive for bartering.
He nods, like it’s a matter of fact thing to give away the work of your hands, to give away love to another soul. Love gave; love gives.