It’s a legend but eternal truths lie in this story.
A Love Story
“My Beloved is mine, and I am His.”
Song of Solomon 2:16
Once upon a time there dwelt a carpenter in the fragrant woods of the northern mountains. He was a gifted artisan who skillfully cut and carved the rich forest timbers into masterpieces so unique that kings and queens from around the world sought after his work. The carpenter was devoted to his craft yet his heart yearned for another heart to cherish, someone to love and someone to love him. He had envisioned his counterpart many times and then one day, there she was, strolling and singing through the nearby village. It only took one glimpse for him to know he had found her.
The carpenter inquired about her from the townsfolk. He learned that the young maiden lived alone. Her parents had recently passed from this world, leaving the lass their meager home and debts far beyond her means to pay. So the villagers tried to discourage the carpenter from pursuing the girl. “She has no dowry, just that shanty of a house. And there are far lovelier prospects than she that you could choose.” But the carpenter could see something beyond the scope of their critical eyes.
A Burden Lifted
“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
(1 John 4:10)
So the courtship began. The carpenter’s first gesture towards the maiden was to her a godsend. The unexpected gift arrived before sun-up outside her cottage. When the half-asleep maiden walked outside for a breath of fresh, clean mountain air, something unusual caught her eye. She stared through the light morning haze at an unfamiliar shadow. As always, her wagon sat parked right there in the yard but what was inside it had her dumbfounded. She rubbed her sleepy eyes for she could not accept what it appeared to be.
“A bridge?” the befuddled girl thought. “I must be dreaming still.” She sauntered towards the enigma. Indeed it was a bridge: about five feet long, barely fitting into her rickety wagon.
“Beautiful. Why it’s beautiful!” She ran her hands over the polished hardwood railings, admiring their intricate hand-carvings. “But why? And who?” Then she spied the note tied to a spindle. It read simply: “To cover your debts.” It was left unsigned.
More puzzled, she wondered who could be such a generous benefactor and how he had learned of her liabilities. And would her creditor accept such an oddity in payment of her enormous debt? “Well, certainly it’s worth a try.” She tethered her horses to the overloaded wagon and rumbled into town.
She was a spectacle riding into town. People stopped and stared. More importantly, her creditor was awed by the sight of the bridge. “How did you know that I needed this?” he asked, not knowing whether to be suspicious or overjoyed. “Hmmm.” He studied the detailed carvings. “It does seem to be just the right size. See that little gorge up there?” He pointed towards the mountains. “I do think this bridge of yours is just the right fit. Yes. It’ll do just fine. It’ll bridge that gap … and cover your debt as well. I’ll mark your account paid in full. Yes, this is quite sufficient! More than sufficient!”
Jesus Christ said: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
The next morning, having slept serenely without the burden of debt weighing her down, the maiden awoke even before the sweet warbling of the bluebirds. She went outside and for the second time, she gasped in surprise. There was a package about three feet by three feet, wrapped in brown paper, tied with string. The note attached read: “For your abundance and joy!” She unceremoniously tore the paper off and lifted the flaps of the box. Suddenly sensing a need for care, she slowly pushed aside the protective tissue wrappings. She squealed with delight at the treasure within. There lay a very fine violin, obviously hand-carved by the Bridge-builder for it boasted his distinctive etchings.
“How could he have known that I’ve always wanted to play the violin?” she mused. Being poor, the maiden had settled for her father’s second-hand fiddle. “And now I have this! What a masterpiece! Certainly, this will help me keep food on my table for I shall be a much sought-after musician!” She slid the bow gingerly across the well-tuned strings. Encouraged by the quality of the sound, she played more boldly. She played and played and the melody echoed throughout the valley. Far off, the carpenter heard the rhapsody and smiled.
And so the carpenter wooed the maiden. Every morning he placed a special gift just outside her door. Some were large and some were small but all bore the sweet fragrance of wood. Each was masterfully hand-crafted. Each was a treasure, not just in its elegant beauty, but for the love that was etched into each and every detail. They stirred a longing in the maiden to meet the elusive bridge-builder, her gift-giver face to face.
“Surely I will not … go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, until I find out a place for the LORD…”
The gifts arrived day after day, a new one every morning as reliably as the sun rising. So one day, the grateful maiden, determined to awaken earlier than normal. Her intent was to intercept her mysterious benefactor, but alas, a package was already on the porch and no one was in view. Her disappointment dulled her excitement but only momentarily for as she unwrapped the huge parcel, the great love of the carpenter overwhelmed her.
“This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”
“Oh, she cried with joyous delight. “Oh, can it be? He wants to marry me!”
This latest gift was a hope chest, the traditional gift that carried a clear promise of betrothal. It was etched with the words: “To My Beloved.”
Her heart raced as she thought to the future. She would fill this chest with love, with patchwork quilts and embroidered linens in anticipation of being his wife. She sighed. Then, ecstatically and impulsively she ran down the path that led into the forest after her beloved. Oh, where are you, my love? Could she catch up with him to express to him her fullness of joy?
She ran as a gazelle, with a spring and a leap. But, at last, with him nowhere in sight, she plopped down on a log, How can I thank him? Or convey my love to him? With a burst of inspiration, she broke into song. It was a love song welling up from deep within her heart. For although she had never met him face to face, she loved him. She knew him well for his works and kind deeds spoke volumes about him. She had studied every detail of every gift he had given. She had discerned his genius from his endless flow of creativity. Intricate, delicately carved details spoke silently of his mastery and patience. Precise, deep, chiseled grooves necessitated strong, steady hands. His largess and faithfulness were apparent in the continuous outflow of his provision. Yes, she knew he loved her and she knew she loved him. But why does he hide?
From that time forward, each new day witnessed an exchange of two hearts: the carpenter bearing gifts of love in the silent pre-dawn mist and a maiden arising and responding to his generous gifts with fervent songs of love. Her lilting voice, carried by the wind, echoed throughout the valley. Could he even hear her song? She sang never knowing, but always hoping. And her song reached the ears of the carpenter afar-off and delighted his heart.
THE CALL OF THE CUSHIONS
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
But the maiden still yearned to meet the bridge-builder and couldn’t understand why he did not openly reveal himself to her. She again determined to catch him early as he arrived. I’ll stay up all night, if need be. So she sat down in a huge chair to await her caller. Now, even this chair had been a gift from him. She wondered how he had managed to get it onto her porch without any noise to stir her. She ran her hands along the arms of the chair, appreciating the fine craftsmanship. As she sank deeper into its fluffy cushions, she snuggled in their comfy plumpness. Pulling an afghan over her to keep her from the cool night air, she sat and sewed and sang and read by candlelight to keep watch. But the warm comfort of the chair and the lateness of the hour at last won her over and she fell into a sleep as deep as the cushions.
When the carpenter finally approached the cottage, he noticed the glow of candlelight within. Could she be awake at this hour? He hoped it was true, so he gently tapped on the thick oak door. If she’s up and about, she’ll respond. But being a gentleman, he wouldn’t rouse her from her slumber, so he rapped lightly. He waited, then tapped a little louder. There was no response. A bit disappointed, the carpenter walked away.
The early morning sun streaked through the panes, lighting the house with warm rays. The young lady awoke. Slowly, the regrettable realization dawned that she had once again missed her suitor. She purposed anew that tomorrow she would be awake when he came.
“… but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
So the very next morning, long before the sun had peaked over the mountaintops, the maiden awoke. She ran to the porch with her candle and was relieved that no package had yet arrived. Not wanting to make the same mistake of falling back to sleep, she resisted the temptation to wait in the chair. Rather, she busied herself around the kitchen. As long as I keep moving, I can’t fall asleep. She cleaned and swept, fighting back fatigue. But she was so pre-occupied with her busy-ness that she did not hear the footsteps come and go.
THE GIFT … OR THE GIVER?
“You have forsaken your first love.”
Her disappointment of another missed meeting served to increase her resolve. So, once again, the maiden awoke in the still morning hours. This time she would not sleep and she would not be too busy to hear her suitor return. She stood at the window and watched and waited. The cuckoo clock struck four and the little bird came out to sing. She looked at the clock and thought how cute was the little carved bird. The carpenter had made this clock, too. How clever was it’s design! She watched the varied figurines move rhythmically in and out of the clock’s door. Then her gaze drifted from the clock to the many other of his gifts that filled the room. Distracted by their rich beauty, she left her post by the window and strolled around the room admiring her many gifts. So once again, the hushed footsteps came and went unnoticed.
But the gift he left that morning brought new hope and even a few giggles. It was a doorknocker. She thought how unsuccessful she had been in attempting to be awake for his visit. I think I need his help, for even that! She hung the door knocker and attached a note: “Please knock LOUDLY, dear gift-giver. When you come, please, wake me up! I long to meet you!”
“… for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”
The next morning the lass readied herself to meet her suitor face to face. She wore her best lace dress. She brushed her hair till it shimmered. She had even prepared some muffins and fresh fruit to enjoy for breakfast. The maiden sat down, confident that she would hear the wooden doorknocker, having left the note for the gentleman to use it despite such an early hour. So even the comfort of the chair could not overcome her determination this morning. She had the added assurance that he would awaken her. Yet she stood and watched and waited at the window, for great was her expectancy. At long last, her heart’s desire appeared. In the soft glow of the moonlight, she saw a figure approaching on a white horse.
FACE TO FACE
“For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face; now, I know in part, but then I shall know even as also I am known”
(1 Corinthians 13:12)
Her heart leaped for joy! She ran out the door and off the porch to meet him face to face. But they were not strangers. She had learned his heart through his gifts and he had sensed her love for him in her morning serenades. Their souls had been entwined for some time. Now their arms embraced one another. Their spirits soared in ecstatic delight. She grasped his hand and led him into her home.
They shared muffins and tea and their hearts. They lost themselves in each other’s eyes. Together they transcended time and shared an eternity in a few, fleeting minutes. It seemed all too short, yet all profoundly momentous.
The carpenter gazed lovingly at the apple of his eye. “My beloved,” he hesitated. “My beloved, I must go now….” His words were softly spoken.
“But…” she began to protest. She did not want him to ever leave her.
“Hush.” He gently touched her lips. “I will come again, and I will take you with me. I’m going to prepare a place for us, our home forever. Wait and watch for me, and know that my spirit and my love remain ever with you.”
The carpenter reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, hand-carved jewel box. “Here…” He opened it to reveal its treasure. Taking her hand, he placed the diamond ring on her finger. “My promise to you.” He kissed her tenderly.
Then he departed. The maiden stood watching his figure fade into the horizon. “Come quickly, my love,” she whispered into the wind. Her heart held every assurance that he would keep his word. And she loved him so deeply that she knew she would wait and watch for his return.
So the pre-dawn gifts stopped for the meantime, but the maiden herself never ceased her early morning love songs, hoping that the wind would somehow carry each soul-felt note to him. Sometimes the maiden chose to play the violin, its melancholic chords expressing how her heart so ached for her beloved to be near. Yet she had absolute faith he would be true to her and to his promise.
The days passed. Her blessed hope sustained her. She yearned for him, her heart’s desire. And whenever the townsfolk hinted that maybe he would not return, she held the diamond on her finger up to the sunlight and watched the rainbows dance within its facets. In her heart, his words resounded, “I will come again.” She would not allow her love to grow cold, though the seasons changed and time marched on. She pondered in her heart all his wonderful gifts – from the bridge that had covered her debt to the hope chest to the engagement ring. So she waited and watched and filled her hours with songs to him.
“The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing is come… Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.”
(Song of Songs 2:12-13)
And then one day, as she was singing and picking wildflowers in the heather fields, she heard the galloping of a horse in the distance. With each pounding of the approaching hoof-beats, her heart pounded harder. Is it at long last my beloved?
He rode gloriously into view on his white steed and her soul leaped for joy. But she had never imagined him as he now appeared. He seemed princely, majestic, and he was arrayed in kingly attire. Even the flowers along his path seemed to bow their heads as he drew near.
“My beloved!” he called out to her.
Yes. It was he! She knew his deep voice. “My love!” she responded.
And then he was there, right beside her and her joy was complete. No sooner than she could blink, he had swept her up onto his mount with him.
“I have prepared everything for you, my love! All is ready: our home, the wedding feast, even your bridal gown and it’s all fit for a queen!” Excitement hung on his every word. “Our wedding day nears! Oh, my beloved, come away with me!”
The maiden beamed her consent. “Yes! Oh, yes, my beloved!”
Gloriously, they rode off together. Together they would be forever. The bride-to-be was so enraptured, her only thought was of him, her carpenter, her bridge-builder, her beloved, her everything! She envisioned them dancing endlessly in each other’s embrace, gliding across space so attuned to one another that their steps and strides flowed together as one. He was all that mattered to her. Not a thought was wasted on what she had left behind. He was her heart’s desire and they would never more be parted!
And for the carpenter, his dream of true love was realized at long last. He had sacrificed everything for his beloved, some of which she had not yet an understanding. But she was worth any sacrifice for he cherished her above all. He now embraced her. His whole delight was in her. He whispered in her ear her name, a name that expressed that sheer delight. He whispered ever so fondly, “You, you are my delight, my sweetest Hephzibah*”.
Here their story does not end for they truly lived joyously ever after.
*Isaiah 62:4; means “my delight is in her”
Truth: Jesus Christ will come back for His Bride. Will you be His?
(c) 1995 HIM/CAVenable