Post by Richard Lebsock
I was a Fine Arts major in college and as part of the process took every art class that was offered. One of the classes that I found very interesting was one on jewelry making. We learned the art of working with sterling silver. All the processes necessary for making fine jewelry were demonstrated and taught by an instructor whose talent was exceptional. I worked hard and learned well.
When I graduated from college and took my first teaching position I found use for all that silver jewelry training. I needed to make a silver cross to wear as part of my new life as a walking, talking, proclaiming Christian. Before, I was just a Christian. Because of the friends here and the bible study groups that I was going to things began to change for me. Prayer had a new meaning and living the life that the bible spoke of was becoming a daily process for me. It was work. Being a Christian is one thing but LIVING as a Christian was another. Talk was cheap. Actions spoke volumes. I was a junior high school teacher and needed to SHOW that I was not just another person in their lives. His love for me needed to be obvious. All that to say why I needed that cross.
I worked on my sketch for the cross during my free time after the kids went home. I made many sketches and finally settled on one that was quite plain and a bit modern in appearance. I carefully cut the cross from the silver blank first. Then I created a figure of Christ to be placed on top of the cross. I applied all the needed skills to smooth, clean, and shape each part for a perfect fit. Then, after cleaning both parts I carefully placed the figure on the cross and placed the silver solder at three critical places. One tiny bit of solder was placed at each hand and one at the feet. I gently heated the entire piece so as to allow the solder to flow under the figure and bond the two parts together. As the heat turned the silver red hot I watched the solder for the first sign of movement so I could stop the heating process and prevent the silver from burning. The solder just did not flow but “jumped” from the cross to the top of the figure and turned to a black dot. Obviously my soldering did not work. My next problem was to cool it all down and separate the two pieces for re-cleaning and another attempt at soldering. However, I chose not to wait for the silver to cool but with some tongs I picked up the piece and tossed it into the cold water in the sink. The shock of the cold water should just pop the two parts apart. Nope. No pop. I picked up the piece and not too gently THREW it to the floor to cause the parts to separate. Nope. No separate. Ah well, so much for that idea. I then took a delicate tool called a screw driver and attempted to force it between the silver parts. Nope. No separate parts. Well now I was getting a bit upset. All that work and all I had was a cross with a figure that I could not get off of it. Wait a minute. If all this effort could not make the two parts separate then maybe I should just finish the job and leave well enough alone. Just what I did. I polished and shined and rubbed the piece into a shining finished product. With a real sense of pride in my shabby workmanship I put the cross on and went home.
I shared that experience with my friend who was the Episcopal priest in that town. He just laughed at my ridiculous attempts to undo what was not to be undone. I know that the process was correct but the finished product was not to be as I planned. The process of soldering was correct and the heat was not enough to weld the two parts together. So why did it “work”? Even in my stupidity the truth finally penetrated my brain…….IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE and so it was. The cross and the figure are forever bonded together in an act of GRACE that nothing can undo or change. Jesus, the Son of God, forever bonded to that cross as the final act of LOVE from the Father for all and for all time. His love gave up His only son that we might have eternal life through the act of the cross. I was wearing a symbol of that act. I was wearing God’s promise of grace through Him. Even in my ignorance I was given a sign of things to come and a promise of what had already been given. So, my lesson in silver making came to an end with the most precious gift ever……the knowledge and the assurance of God’s grace.
This cross was with me when I met Jesus face to face at a Holy Week retreat at Mount Calvary Monastery in 1964. (Read the story on day 3 of 31 Quite Amazing Days) The cross was given to a friend years later and I have no idea where it is today. I just know that whoever wears it is being touched by the hand of God.
As it did with me…the cross leaves quite a mark on whosoever!