Sunday, August 24, 2014

“Humiliation is the beginning of sanctification.” — John Donne

In the memory of this old man, there are many things that I cannot be sure if they are real or if I have just remembered them for so long that they have come to be real for me.  One such event was a scene in a black and white movie about a preacher set in the 1930’s.  The title escapes me.  I was in my teens when I saw it, and if it really happened or not, it has stayed with me for over fifty years.  It seems this pastor traveled a lot on horseback because his congregation was far flung and some of the older people lived way back in the hills and would only see a preacher once a year or less.  I keep thinking it was Henry Fonda who played the preacher, but then I also think the Boston Red Sox have won the world series more than once.  Anyway, as the preacher was saddling his horse to ride out to see some of the oldest folks on his circuit, his ten-year-old son asked if he could come along and his father agreed.  He thought it would be a good thing for him to see just what serving God in the back country was like.  After a long and uneventful ride, they came to an old woman living alone in a small cabin miles from any neighbors.  Although she couldn’t see very well, she insisted that they eat with her for she had no other way of thanking the pastor for coming to visit.  Almost blind, she did a good job of cooking a simple meal.  While they were seated at the table, and after grace had been said, she jumped up and said, “Oh, please forgive me, I’ve forgotten the milk.  I keep it out in the well to keep it cool.”  She left for a while and then returned with a pitcher of milk.  She gave it first to the son and then went and sat at her seat.  The son looked into the pitcher of milk and saw a tiny frog swimming around in the milk.  His nose turned up in disgust but before he could say anything, his father took the milk and poured the milk and the frog into his tin cup.  While looking at his son, he drained the cup dry, swallowed and thanked the woman for her kindness and the milk.  With the frog gone, the son also drank.  After a bit, the preacher and his son said their good byes, prayed with the woman and got on their horses.  There were tears in the woman’s eyes as she stood on the porch to wish them goodbye, she felt so blessed.  Once out of earshot of the woman’s cabin, the son could contain himself no longer.  “How could you swallow that frog?  I was humiliated,” he demanded of his father.  His father replied in a calm and loving voice that the woman only saw a man of God once every two years or so.  If he had mentioned the frog, the woman’s humiliation would have been almost too great for her to bear.  Even if she lived long enough for another pastor to come see her, she would never forgive herself for serving a frog in the milk.  The father told the son, who was beginning to understand, that sometimes self humiliation is demanded of you with no comment—if you are truly serving God.  The boy said, “So, sometimes losing is really winning if the cause is right.”  The father beamed with pride.  “You’ve grown in stature and wisdom this day,” he said with a smile.  They were quiet as they rode away.  Now, that’s the way I remember the story.  We have no internet at the moment and even when we did, I searched and searched and never found if this was true or not.  However, it doesn’t really matter if it was in the movie or not, the story is one that we all need to remember.  The feelings of others are important and many times more important than the little hurts or humiliations we allow ourselves to endure in the name of peace.  Oh, if only more of our diplomats could see that story and learn from it.  We need to learn from it as well.  The Lord is our shepherd, we are not His.  We need to allow Him to lead us and to think of others before we think of ourselves.  May God grant you the strength and peace to do this.  
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