“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV)
In a series of posts last summer titled Lessons From the Cotton Field, I reflected upon a number of Biblical principles I learned firsthand in the cotton fields of my youth in rural Georgia. A recent segment on the local news featuring students picking bell pepper at a nearby farm surfaced memories of another episode from those days.
While cotton was our primary cash crop growing up, my father would occasionally experiment with other crops as well, such as watermelons, butterbeans, peas, and corn – all of which we would peddle locally and at the Farmer’s Market south of Atlanta. (I much preferred the peddling over the picking!)
One year he decided to plant bell pepper to sell at a local processing plant in Jackson. Like many memories from those years, my memories of that crop are a bit hazy. But one incident stands out vividly. It was the day I decided to conduct my own one-man work strike against my father.
Daddy didn’t seem nearly as concerned about that design flaw as I was. So to make my point more emphatically, when the weight of my sack became unbearable on my ten-year old shoulders and neck one day, I declared for all to hear, “This pepper sack is choking my guts out!!!”.
In the face of the laughter that serious declaration generated from my father and my siblings, I dragged that sack of peppers to the end of the row and dropped it. Ignoring Daddy’s threatening commands to return and disregarding whatever consequences might ensue, I defiantly walked off the job.
But instead of taking the most direct route home, I decided to take the longer way – the one that happened to pass by my Granny Wells’ house. There I found a sympathetic ear to my complaints. I can still hear her soothing and comforting words, “Well bless your heart, let me fix you something to eat.”
After an appropriate time of grandmotherly coddling, I made my way home to receive whatever punishment I had coming. Bracing myself in my room as I heard Daddy coming through the back door, I waited for that call every child dreads in such situations. And waited. And waited. And waited …..
Finally, I heard Mama calling the family to the supper table. (Yes, we called it supper in the South. Dinner was the noon meal.) With my head hung low like Ralphie in The Christmas Story after he broke his glasses fighting Farkus the bully, I made my way to the kitchen table to face my fate.
Daddy’s first words to me were “So I hear you visited Granny Wells this afternoon.” “How did you know that?” I replied. “A little birdie told me,” he answered.
And that was it! No further discussion and, most surprising of all, no punishment. (Of course, I would never live down that “choking my guts out” declaration!)
At Granny Wells’ house that day, I experienced grace – undeserved favor. And I suspect it was due primarily to her intercession on my behalf that I received mercy from Daddy that evening – not getting the punishment I clearly deserved. (Perhaps Granny Wells had reminded him of similar acts of rebellion from his own childhood.)
Little did I know at the time that I was getting an early glimpse into the ways of my Heavenly Father.
All of us appreciate receiving love, mercy, forgiveness, and grace. But the appreciation I felt at the supper table that night pales in comparison to the gratitude I feel when I consider that when Christ interceded for me at Calvary, he wasn’t pleading my case – he was bearing my punishment.
While I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me! (See Romans 5:8)
“He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him: as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103: 10-12 NIV)
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