It was an annular ringed nail made to be driven into wood by a nailing machine and to stay there forever. That is what the rings were for. Once in place, it took superhuman strength to remove it. But then, our job at the old textile mill was putting them in, not taking them out.
The pallet making shop was four times as long as it was wide and had a pallet manufacturing line at either side close to the side walls. Hoppers on top of each nailing machine held the nails that were fed down through tubes to the nailing heads. From time to time, one of the crew went aloft to empty boxes of three-inch long annular ringed nails into the hopper to keep the supply stocked. Occasionally, a few nails would spill over the sides of the steel hoppers as they were being emptied, landing on the floor to be swept up at the close of each day’s operations. It was commonplace to have nails kicking around the floor and no one paid any mind to them.
On the day I found the nail I was working at the back of the machine, pulling the half-made pallets through to the turnover element before sending them down to have their tops fitted and nailed. I needed to go for a drink, or something equally trivial, and asked one of the team to cover for me. Then I jumped down from the staging on which we worked on the assembly lines, and that’s when I found the nail.
At first it didn’t register what had happened, but a moment later it was obvious that against all the odds, one of the spilled nails had landed on its head and stood there just the right distance away from the staging for my right boot to find it when I jumped off.
I felt a bit sick when I saw the point of the nail sticking through the toe cap of my boot and knew that I had been nailed good and proper. I was still feeling a bit sick when my workmates carried me into the supervisor’s office and laid me out on the desk. Someone had notified the work’s First Aid man who arrived breathless and asked for a claw hammer. I had already tried to remove the nail by hand and the resultant pain left me in no doubt that it was not of a mind to be taken out without some of the brute force that it took to drive it in. I explained to the First Aid man that if he touched my foot at all, never mind with a claw hammer, he would be on the desk next to me with someone trying to pull my other boot out of his face. And he understood!
So, I was consigned to Oldham general Hospital in an ambulance where, because I had had a drink of orange juice at ten that morning, I had to wait in casualty in a wheelchair with my bad foot cradled across my good one with the nail sticking up like Blackpool Tower, attracting wry comments from other patients and visitors.
My wait was of four hours duration because the physicians wisely decided that I would need a general anaesthetic before they could pull the nail out of my foot. At the examination immediately prior to the general anaesthetic, the kindly physician, an Indian, was reaching for the nail head with his finger and thumb. Before he could touch the piercer, I placed my hand around his windpipe and smiled at him, saying gently, “We are not going to hurt each other, are we?” And he understood!
I awoke on the table, minus boot, and minus the nail. They had already discarded the nail and I did not need a souvenir. I felt drunk and could not stop laughing for about ten minutes, after which they declared me ready for discharge, having dressed the wounds, one on top and one underneath my foot a little way back from where the toes join the foot. It remained sore for a few days before the pain subsided, and the holes healed well, leaving small scars that have faded into nothing with the passing of the years. Only a faint memory remains and I hardly think about that event now – except at Easter.
Then it is that I am reminded that the Romans did not have the luxury of one eight of an inch diameter annular ringed nails, but crude shafts beaten from iron by a blacksmith: heavy square things with broad blunt heads that were made to fix heavy timbers in place; wedge-shaped things with sharp edges that tore into flesh when driven through human hands and feet, and hurt not one whit less when that flesh was both human and divine.
Sometimes I remember that no one suffered more keenly the anguish of the driving of the nails through his hands and feet than Christ did, and yet he murmured not, and I am ashamed because of my all-too-human murmurings when my pain was so small, and His so great, even unto death.
Then, I understand a little better than once I did, how it was love that kept Jesus fastened on the cross and not the pitiless nails, and I feel ashamed because I complained about one little one, and feel ashamed to think that sometimes I forget the nails he bore in his flesh because of His love for me; and in such moments or remembering the recollection of his words floods into my mind like Spirit-borne light, bringing a new and more profound realisation of what He meant when He said,
The Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him Then the soaring words of the prophet Isaiah stir in my heart:
He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed
Then I am healed again through His suffering, and know His peace – and then I understand!
Ronnie Bray Copyright © 2001 All Rights Reserved [email protected]
Ronnie and his wife Gay are transplants to Montana from England, after serving a church mission together in Tennessee. Ronnie has been writing for 2TheHeart for many years and is a favorite among our readers! You can find his writing in the new 2theheart book (www.cafepress.com/2theheart ) and on Ronnie’s web page: http://www.2theheart.com/author_ronnie_bray