I have often written of my Granny and Grandpa Tharpe. They were two of the best grandparents a kid could ask for, in my opinion. Grandpa was kind and gentle, soft spoken and graceful in his own way; and since he worked for Borden Dairy, he also had access to fudgesicles from his truck, which went a long way towards building his status as a first rate grandpa. Granny was kind and gentle, in her own special, forceful way. She was graceful as well. Soft spoken would be a bit of a stretch, but I am willing to make it. She baited her own hook, rowed her own boat, and cleaned her own fish, all of which worked in her favor from a little boy’s stand point.
They had a great yard with an old claw footed cast iron bath tub full of dirt and wigglers; catawba trees, complete with catawba worms for fishing; a fence that was not so high you couldn’t jump it; and a flower bed full of caladiums and toads. The crème de la crème, however, was a couple of great climbing trees, or shade trees depending on your mood at the time; and that brings me to my subject … whittling.
It was a sweltering summer’s day back in the sixties. It was hot enough that shade trumped climbing, so my older brother, Mike, and I were sitting in the front yard under one of the live oaks. We were sitting in our respective Adirondack chairs watching the odd car go by and chewing the fat like a couple of old men. We each had glass of iced tea, to wet the whistle, a stick and a knife. We were whittling.
It was on that day that I discovered that I would never attain one of my dreams. I was not going to develop into a great sculptor. I was not going to develop into a mediocre sculptor. I was not a going to be a sculptor. Michelangelo, I’m not.
Mike and I were raised in a less cautious … a less paranoid era, and because of that we were sitting in the shade doing our best to turn those sticks into knives. We had war games planned you see, with bulwarks of dirt from the road, grenades from the magnolia trees, dirt clod bombs and, of course, our shimmering sabers.
We both started with the same material. We both had wood, sharp knives and time. As time progressed the shavings piled up around both chairs, the tea slowly disappeared and under Mike’s hands his stick turned into a credible impersonation of a military Ka-Bar knife. In that Mike is detail oriented to a fault; the thing had blood grooves, those little notches on the top, and a pretty sharp edge. He even cut a diamond pattern in the grip so it would be easy to grasp, and, of course, he carved his name in it right where the manufacturer would put theirs. It was impressive.
After I took a look at Mike’s work of art and made a close examination of it, I turned my attention to what I had produced with the same time, the same wood and the same carving knife. Upon close examination of my work I had to admit that I had produced a credible impersonation of a disfigured stick.
So, what is the point this story? Well, it’s simple really. We all start off as rough pieces of material, brought into the world through no choice of our own. We don’t choose the family; we don’t choose the time; we are essentially helpless.
How we are raised to adulthood is not left up to us, but to others; and sometimes it is done well and sometimes it isn’t. We have little control over that. That being said, in all of our lives we do have choices.
There comes a time when we place ourselves into the hands that will shape us. There comes a time in life when we realize that who we are is greatly determined by our allegiances. Not earthly allegiances so much as spiritual ones. Who we choose to ally ourselves with determines not only our final destination, but the final outcome of ourselves.
If we choose to place our lives, ourselves, into the hands of anything other than Jesus Christ, what will be produced is a disfigured impersonation of what was created to be perfection itself.
With the shavings of love, peace, joy, forgiveness, and humility scattered on the ground all that will be left is a hard-bitten shell of what was meant to be.
That being said, remember that the Almighty Sculptor, Jesus Christ, yearns for you to place yourself in His hands. Under His knife, the person you were created to be will emerge. The shavings of pride, greed and self-seeking will fall away, and a child of God will be born.
It won’t be easy. Growth never is. Always remember, however, that you will be in the hands of the God of love; a God who earnestly loves you and passionately desires that you become the shining example of His creation you were born to be.
The only question remaining is … “Whose hands will shape you?”