I wonder what was going through Alexandre Safonov’s mind when he carved the 7-foot-tall statue of the body of Christ.

Back in 2000, the Russian-born artist began working on the figure of Jesus.

Today, it hangs on a wooden cross in the sanctuary of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Fremont.

Fremonter Bill Beaudette built the masterfully created ash wood cross.

The cross with Jesus was hung in the church in 2001.

Recently, I reread the article I wrote about it.

I was privileged to write about a public showing of the crucifix and statue at St. Patrick Auditorium, before the cross was hung in the church.

About 500 parishioners gathered to see beautifully completed artwork.

Older people gazed at the statue’s face, then had their photographs taken alongside the crucifix.

Little children ran tiny fingers along lines etched into the delicately carved hair. One small boy touched one of thorns in the crown on the statue’s head, then quickly pulled his hand away.

Selected to create the artwork after a competition and interview, Safonov said he fasted and prayed for three days before even starting the project.

Safonov knew just how he wanted to portray the face of Christ.

He decided to depict Jesus at that moment when he looked down from the cross and told Mary that the Apostle John would be her son—and that she would be his mother.

Safonov wanted people coming into the church to feel that Christ was looking into their hearts and saying, “I’m doing this for you and for your sins. Just come to me.”

As Christians, we know we can go to heaven if we believe Jesus died on the cross and rose again for our sins, repent of our sins (that means to be so sorry we never want to do them again) and ask Christ to be our Lord and Savior.

I really believe it’s best deal we could ever get.

Looking back, I remember the tender detail found in the statue’s face.

It reflected suffering and compassion.

Safonov said he attracted unexpected visitors while carving the statue in his studio.

He was carving one day when he heard a noise. He looked down and saw a man on his knees, weeping and touching the feet of the corpus.

Can you even imagine the poignant scene?

It took Safonov a year to create the artwork, which was carefully packed in a huge crate in the back of a pickup truck.

Safonov and his wife, Charlene, set out for Fremont with the statue.

It’s a wonder they made it.

A deer jumped into their truck’s path one dark morning at 5 near Bozeman, Mont. They had to wait in Bozeman until repairs could be made to the truck.

They later drove through a snowstorm before reaching Nebraska.

But they arrived.

And the beautiful statue and cross still hang in the church.

Why all this talk of artistry?

Maybe it’s because our God is an artist.

We can see his work in the stars sprinkled throughout the sky and in mountains, forests and oceans.

He clearly knows what he’s doing.

I could see that truth even more, while reading an “Our Daily Bread” devotional by Remi Oyedele.

It tells how scientists know the earth is placed just the right distance from the sun to benefit from its heat.

“A little closer and all the water would evaporate, as on Venus,” Remi writes. “Only a bit farther and everything would freeze like it does on Mars.”

Earth is the right size to generate just the right amount of gravity.

“Less would make everything weightlessly sterile like our moon, while more gravity would trap poisonous gases that suffocate life as on Jupiter,” Remi says.

Such things reflect their designer — God.

Remi notes how God gives us a glimpse into his craftsmanship in the book of Job.

And boy, does he ever.

Many people know Job as the guy who lost his 10 beloved children and everything he’d worked for — thousands of head of livestock — through calamitous situations.

He lost his health and — the man who’d helped so many others — became an outcast. Three friends who try to help only add to his pain with their words.

Job reaches a point where he feels like God has abandoned and turned against him.

And Job wants to know why.

God answers out of a whirlwind, basically letting Job know that there are so many things we don’t understand about our Lord and how things work.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” the Lord asks. “Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements — surely you know!”

Ouch. That had to hurt.

And yet, God seems to be presenting his resume.

He’s got lots of experience when it comes to building — whether he’s talking about the universe or a man’s character.

God asks Job who shut in the seas with doors or who makes the morning appear every day — just like it should.

“Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?” God asks. “…Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail….?”

Job realizes there is so much he didn’t know when he was making his accusations against God. Job repents and, in the end, God gives him twice as much as he lost.

Will we get twice as much as we’ve lost?

I don’t know.

But I know those who remain faithful to our great Creator will be rewarded — especially in heaven.

I love verses like:

“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him,” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

And one of the verses I cling to is:

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12)

Our God is a master craftsman — combining the broken pieces of our lives with the richness of his glory — and creating examples of artistry.

I don’t suspect we’ll see the finished product of our lives — that intricately woven tapestry — until heaven.

But I trust each of our lives will be different — yet beautiful — works of art.

Because—after all—we are being shaped by a master craftsman like no other.

* Remi Oyedele, Our Daily Bread, Copyright 2020 by RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly spiritual column.


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