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The Carpenter's Vision

Words and Images by Dorothy Greco

We spent last weekend in the company of a master carpenter. Though I appreciated (and coveted) many of his creations, one particular object arrested my attention. It was a growth, similar to a cancer, which attached itself to the side of a healthy tree. To my untrained eye, it was worthless and ugly.

But not to Mark. Years of working with wood have given him the capacity to see through the exterior. He sensed that something worthwhile was concealed by the knobby, rough exterior. And so he made one calculated, careful cut. And he was correct. The interior revealed an stunning range of colors and patterns which he skillfully accentuated by gently sanding and oiling.

How many times have I missed the beauty of another because I did not have the discernment to see past their exterior? When I first met Anne, she scared me. There was simultaneously wildness and death in her eyes. She stood too close, ignoring my clear non-verbal response to her presence. Spittle emerged when she talked and her words were spoken too quickly and sometimes incoherently. My flesh wanted to avoid and ignore her.

Over the years, I have gotten to know Anne. I heard her story of horrific abuse, of her struggles with mental illness, and of the ruptures within her family. I gradually dropped the metal barriers which I had erected to protect myself. Mercy replaced revulsion. I confessed my judgment towards her with a friend which permitted me to inch closer.

Then God helped me to see that Anne and I were not so different. That though I like to imagine myself acceptable and unoffensive, I too have sharp edges which cut and wound those who get close enough. And in fact, my brokenness might be more offensive to the Lord, because I wrap it in socially acceptable packaging. I have the capacity to be more nuanced, to hide what Anne cannot.

Thankfully, our heavenly Father is not put off by our sin, by our brokenness, by those parts of ourself that we, or others, deem ugly. Like Mark, the Lord patiently and skillfully works to reveals our beauty–which He has always seen–to us and to the world around us.

I no longer avoid Anne. In fact, I am quite delighted when our paths cross. I see her strength, creativity, and humor. I see myself. And in both of us, I see holy women emerging as we submit to the Carpenter’s hand.

Since graduating from Boston University in 1983, Dorothy has worked as a photographer, journalist, home-schooling mom, and pastor. A rather eclectic combination which actually reflects the diversity of her soul. You can connect with Dorothy's words and images at www.dorothygreco.com.