A Light in the Darkness

By Debbonnaire Kovacs

Michael Arthur Patterson tipped his head to one side and ran his fingers over the oddly-shaped piece of wood Mr. Fontaine had just handed him. Four little legs, so it must be an animal, but then he could have guessed that much. Mr. Fontaine almost always carved animals. This must be the head . . . a little pointy nose . . . “A dog?” he asked.

“Almost, but not quite,” Mr. Fontaine replied.

Almost a dog . . . “A wolf? A coyote?”

“Smaller.”

“I know! A fox! And here’s his bushy tail!” Mike exclaimed.

“Right!” Mr. Fontaine’s chuckle was getting less rusty, now that he used it a little more often.

Mike sighed. “I wish I could carve. Even blind I can do lots of things people don’t think I can, but I guess carving isn’t one of them. I’d cut my fingers off!”

Mr. Fontaine was silent for a minute. “I have an idea,” he said finally. “Can you come to my house for a while?”

Dad gave permission, so Mike and Mr. Fontaine walked down the street arm in arm. It was strange being guided by Mr. Fontaine. His hand felt rough against Mike’s arm. But his grip was sure, and he didn’t walk too fast. Mike decided it was strange, but nice. He heard the creak of Mr. Fontaine’s gate and felt the shade of the trees. They had reached the old man’s front yard.

“Sit here on the porch where it’s cool and wait a minute.” Mr. Fontaine soon came back and put a plain block of wood into Mike’s hand. “We’ll carve something together. How’s that?”

“Together? But how can I?” Mike asked.

“You’ll see. First, you can tell me what kind of animal I should make from that block.”

Mike felt the block. It was just a plain, ordinary rectangle. He heard a robin singing in the tree. “How about a robin?”

“OK. One robin coming up.” Mr. Fontaine took the wood, and Mike heard the faint scraping of the knife. Only a couple of minutes later, he felt the wood being pressed into his hand again. “This is the first stage,” Mr. Fontaine explained.

Mike felt the rough wood. It was now kind of U-shaped. “What’s this?” he felt a little projection on the round part of the U.

“That’s where his feet will be.” Mr. Fontaine took the wood back and cut some more. Every couple of minutes, he let Mike feel his progress. It was very interesting! Little by little, the wood was taking the shape of a bird.

“It’s like magic!” Mike said.

Mr. Fontaine chuckled again. “Not exactly. OK, now, here’s where you come in. Feel this?”

Mike felt a piece of heavy paper with something very scratchy on one side.

“That’s the coarse sandpaper. This is the medium, and here’s the fine. Feel the difference?”

Mike nodded.

“I want you to finish the bird. Sand until it is as smooth as you can get it.” He showed Mike how to hold the coarse sandpaper and how to rub it over the bird.

Carefully, Mike sanded away, holding his head at just the right angle to help him concentrate. Mr. Fontaine told him when to switch to the medium sandpaper. “This is really cool, Mr. Fontaine! I can feel it getting smoother every second!”

Mr. Fontaine was silent for a minute. Then he asked suddenly, “Don’t you ever get mad at God?”

Startled, Mike stopped sanding and turned his face toward Mr. Fontaine. “Mad at God?”

“For letting you be blind,” Mr. Fontaine continued.

“Oh.” Mike started sanding again. “Sometimes. I mean, it’s not like He did it. It was Satan’s idea.”

“But you believe God could have stopped it, don’t you?” Mr. Fontaine asked.

“Sure, He could have. But I guess He knows what He’s doing. Last week, our Sabbath School lesson was about Saul. Do you know the story?” Mr. Fontaine didn’t, so Mike told him about Saul seeing Jesus on the road to Damascus. “He gave his life to Jesus and asked forgiveness. After three days, Jesus sent someone to make him see again.” Mike smoothed the sandpaper carefully around the bird’s little round head. “I always feel kind of upset when I hear stories like that. I’ve given my life to Jesus. Why doesn’t He make me see?”

Mr. Fontaine handed him the fine sandpaper. “After the robin is as smooth as this sandpaper can get it, we’ll rub a wax finish into it.”

“But I know I can trust God,” Mike continued. “This week, the lesson is about how God chose Saul, only now he was called Paul, to be His special missionary to the people who weren’t Jews. Maybe God has a special plan for me too. My teacher says God’s love is like a light in the darkness. Maybe I understand that even better than people who don’t live in darkness.”

“Maybe you do,” Mr. Fontaine agreed. “Let’s see this bird. You did a great job! I think this bird is smoother than mine are! Maybe I can see better than you can, and you can feel detail better than I can.”

He showed Mike how to rub the finish into the bird with a rag.

When they had put on a couple of coats, Mike ran his fingers all over the smooth, silky carving. He smiled. This time was different, because he wasn’t getting to know the carving by touching it. He already knew every bump and hollow by heart.

Mike felt Mr. Fontaine’s arm around his shoulders. The old man had never done that before. “I want to tell you something, Mike. I’ve been in darkness for a long time—ever since my wife died. You have been a light in my darkness. You and your family and friends have shown me that God still loves me. I know my Mary would be ashamed of the way I’ve grumbled and complained and been angry with God. I want you to know I went back to church last week.”

“You did? That’s great!” Mike felt all excited.

“Mary would say I should trust God. I guess it’s time I started doing that.” He let go of Mike and stood up, harrumphing almost the way he used to do. “Well, now, let’s go show your dad and your aunt this beautiful bird you made!”

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