“He killed a man in his younger years.” Don, my painter and dear friend shared, as we drove home from an out of town install. After a long day of being buried in boxes, we arranged the furniture, hung the pictures, and strategically placed the decor, so the office was ready for it’s grand opening. We were bone-tired and ready to sit back and let Don do the driving. And the story telling…
A long-time preacher, Don is a consummate tale-spinner. His great-granddaddy, Hugh Ferguson Newell was born in the mid1800’s and could not read or write. He participated in two major events that changed him forever.
First, he paid a young man one dollar a day to read the bible to him, which left him convicted and converted.
Second, a visit to Fort Smith, Arkansas haunted him with a long shadow of worry he carried the rest of his life.
Minding his own business, he came upon a man beating his wife. Like the Calvary riding in to save the day, he jumped in and began to fight. The brawl turned dirty as the beater pulled a knife. In self-defense, Hugh killed the man.
Arrested, he was marched to meet his fate at the hands of the “Hanging Judge,” Isaac Parker. Judge Parker sent one hundred and sixty men and women to their death. Hugh was one of the few not swinging from a tree at the end of his trial.
But a price was paid for his heroism. From that time forward he refused to have his picture taken.
Don has two photos of Great Grandad Newell. In both he is turned away from the camera. For the rest of his days, he feared for his life. Hugh lived anxious that the vengeful family, would find him and retaliate.
Most of us haven’t killed anyone recently, though we could be accused of murderous thoughts when the refrigerator door is left open for the bazillionth time. But aren’t there times we fear to show our face? Times when we royally messed up and we fear the wrath of a friend, boss, a co-worker, a family member, or even God?
Or maybe we don’t fear God’s wrath as much as we fear his indifference. Fear that he will abandon us to our mess and turn his back on us. Because just maybe we stumble and fall into the same pit over and over and over…And we don’t see how he can keep on forgiving and forgetting our betrayals.
We. Fear. He. Will. Give. Up. On. Us.
Oh how I love the words of David. His angst is raw and real in the midst of trials. His confidence in God–Inspiring.
“Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
God my Savior.
Though my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will receive me.
Teach me your way, Lord;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors…
I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:9-14
But Scripture is laced and sewn tight with the truth of his love for us.
“I was pushed back and about to fall,
but the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and my defense
he has become my salvation.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.” Psalm 118:13-14, 29
And the happy ending is all I yearn for, as God swoops to the rescue again.
So flash those pearly whites and pose for the camera.
No need to hide your face away. God is always there for you, no matter the mess you’ve made. Only he can make sense of our mayhem and pull us out of our pit to stand beside him as his beloved child.
“His love endures forever.” Amen!