Trevor called with an offer I couldn’t resist. “I’m just putting the final touches on a life-sized sculpture of Jesus. Could you come over and take a look at it? I like it, but there’s something . . . I don’t know.” I also couldn’t resist the clipped and cultured British accent of this sweet man born in Rhodesia.
“Yeah, right, Trevor, suggestions on your sculpture. That’ll be the day. But I would love to see it.”
Sunday afternoon, I grabbed my friend Mario and we drove up into the Oakland hills where my dear friend Trevor Southey had lived for years. Three decades before, Trevor had illustrated my first book of poetry, Beginnings. The beautiful work on the cover, “God in Embryo,” had helped the book sell remarkably well and put me on the map locally. Many of his creations are now displayed in my house, including the large portrait of my four children, and an inspiring bronze male and female, Resurrection, that my husband had bought for our first anniversary.
Trevor was now a highly sought after artist, flying around the world to do important assignments, his work exhibited in prestigious galleries and collections. The Jesus figure he spoke of had been commissioned by a group of Jesuits in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
We rounded a curve on Leona Lane and I laughed out loud. There they were, Trevor and Jesus, life-sized as promised, standing together in the open carport, surrounded by the ferns and orchids and jasmine of Trevor’s garden. The one stood very still, brown clay arms slightly raised, reaching out in compassion. The other stepped here, stepped there, spray bottle in one hand, sculptor’s tool in the other, totally absorbed in the divine work of his art. I wondered how many bicyclists had lost their balance coming upon this wonderful scene, or how many cars had braked for Jesus.
“Oh, there you are!” Trevor greeted us with his fine white bristly beard, guileless round face, tender brown eyes, a buttery softness around the middle, and a shiny bald head. Beaming, Trevor put down his tools and came to hug us.
“What do you think?” Trevor went immediately back to his fussing. A spray of water, a press of the tool, a tiny dig. He frowned. “What do you think of the face? Now tell me.”
I stood directly in front of the sculpture and looked up into Jesus’s face. Beautiful work. Reverently I reached out and touched the wet clay, gleaming in the sunlight.
Trevor fussed some more. “I don’t know. There’s something . . .”
I studied the face—deep set eyes, no beard, hair short for Jesus, lips slightly open. I wanted to say, “It’s perfect!” but instead I said, I’m sure with a touch of disappointment in my voice, “He’s very—human.”
“Of course he’s human.”
I sighed and looked again, from this angle, from that angle. “I wish I felt—a little more of the, you know, godly.”
“I don’t want a beatific Jesus,” Trevor said, almost impatiently. “I want us to see his humanity, a bit of vulnerability. And yet, there’s something . . .”
“He doesn’t have to smile,” I said, “but those lines, those deep furrows in the forehead. Jesus looks, well—worried. I don’t like him to be worried.”
Trevor stepped back and cocked his head. “Worried? That’s not what I wanted. Worry is not an appropriate expression for Jesus.”
“What would happen if . . .” Tentatively I reached up to touch the worried brow of Jesus. “What if these furrows were not so deep?”
Trevor nodded. “Go ahead.”
Slightly, slightly, my fingers smoothed the clay.
A spray of water hit my hand, and I watched as Trevor deftly placed the tool, pressing, flicking, pressing. Thirty seconds later he stood back and studied his work. “Ah! Ah, yes!”
“Yes!” I echoed. “That’s what I wanted! Oh, that’s beautiful. Jesus isn’t—worried anymore!”
I woke up about three in the morning and couldn’t go back to sleep. My mind went over and over the words my son Aaron had spoken that evening. “I can’t do it, Mom. This marriage is ending.” I had been hoping they could find each other again. I had even used some money to send them on a Caribbean cruise while I kept the two precious girls. After leaving Trevor and Jesus, Mario and I had picked up the returning couple from the airport. “I care deeply about Terri,” Aaron had said in our few minutes alone, “but this marriage is over.”
Four o’clock. No sleep. Thoughts came like static. They had been too young to marry, of course they had been too young. And now they were too young to divorce. Sarah and Sydney, dear babies. They deserve better than this. I played their marriage over again and again in my head—what if this, what if that, what if they had, what if I had, and what will happen if?
Then as I lay there with my little parade of fears, my thoughts drifted into a different room in my mind. Not the sleep room, but that room where two things come together and create something new. My concern for my son and his wife, for their children, for my own pain, merged into the other experience of the day, that lovely experience with Trevor’s Jesus. I began to hear words. The voice was mine, but the speaker was Jesus.
“You know, Carol Lynn,” he said. “You were right today that worry is not an appropriate expression for my face. And I need to tell you that worry is also not an appropriate expression for your face. Today you helped smooth the wrinkles in my brow, and if you will let me, I can do the same for you right now.”
I let him. I pictured Jesus, not frozen in clay, but alive, extending a warm, warm hand. The hand on my forehead. Smoothing, smoothing. So warm. So powerful. A sweet sculptor in the dark. Bringing peace.