My husband is a woodworker who often finds himself working with boards that were trees grown wild for many years. As soon as they are laid on the sawmill, you can see how they have grown wrong. Still he will work over them and for them, turning their bent crooked bodies into something good.
I love trees. There are some I would strap myself to and die for, but I have also learned that they are a good gift for making useful, treasured things. I learned this as I watched my husband take little over-crowded cedars and turn them into a beautiful crib for our daughter. This is just the sort of thing Jesus would do. He used no screws or nails, but worked patiently with the stubborn curves and grains, bending them gently, changing them gracefully, making them work together, redeeming them. As he scraped away the rough exterior, the sweet smell of the heart of the wood filled the room, and still does.
I’ve spent much of my young life with different old people, as they end theirs. I’ve come to realize that there is a final shaping at the end of a life. Regardless of what they have been before, a wife and mother, perhaps, now they are something new: someone old. And whether that comes with loss of health or memory or mental capacity or familiar companions and surroundings, or all of these things, it is most assuredly a hard new work. It seems like I have seen it come so much harder for some than others, as if the way they have grown, like a stubborn tree, just won’t accept this new thing the carpenter is making in them.
They may say things like I want to stay in my home forever, even if that means being alone and vulnerable, and perhaps unclean and uncared for. Although this is their right, I suppose, it is a sad choice, and perhaps a result of not realizing how often God used painful, unwanted circumstances for their good and that they have a duty as long as they breathe, not only to go on loving and being needed, but to go on being loved and cared for. For the one that fights willing dependence and necessary humility, I have come to see this as a life pattern, and although in one way this gives me hope, it also gives me pause. Everything I do now will make for the person I become, and that woman, that old woman, is mostly how I will be remembered.