Once, a fairly longtime ago, I was walking with Papaw Earl. He was telling me about his life as we walked to a farm where he found Nana and also made a start. He looked over at a house that he had built, brought his bride, but through chicanery lost, and did not say a word of complaint. I knew the backstory and so I asked him about the loss. He smiled and said something, I am not sure what, but it was not much.
The smile is what stuck in my mind. He was at peace. The place had been more or less stolen from him, but he was at peace. He went on to help those who had given him such a hard time for years. I saw him do it.
Life, being broken by our sins, takes a long time, God’s eternity, to reveal the goodness, truth, and beauty that was, is, and is coming. The present injustice, like the loss of a farmhouse is real, but the good God will heal, restore, and make restitution for every loss. Papaw knew this to his bones.
He was not bitter, but also no fool. He did not deny the double dealing, since he was an honest man. He refused to let that evil touch his soul. He was a good man after finding Jesus and a good man he would remain despite all temptation. Papaw Earl said some wise things on that walk about the world and the way things were, are, and would be. These were things that have stood me in good stead, because they were unchanging.
Once he was buying some groceries to help an older person, a person who had been involved in the earlier chicanery. He had been given very little, but he bought very much. I noted that fact and he said: “Well, she is old and all and prices have gone up. She cannot know. . .” And he smiled again.
He knew that she knew the prices to the penny. He knew and was at peace in his soul.
The just man, my Papaw, could not be cheated, because he was not fooled, he simply loved his “enemy” as himself. When there was money to be had by grasping behavior, he was a gentleman. He was not fooled, he simply would not lower himself to chase filthy lucre.
These are difficult days where people scheme, plot, and Slytherin their way to power. To win in the short term, we would have to become like them in the long term. This we cannot do. We might lose, but we will not lie or cheat to win. When years later, someone points to our short-term defeat, we will smile. Why?
I hope, in part, because Papaw knew, really knew, that his grandson thought he was a great man at that very moment. He had triumphed as surely as Saint Constantine at Malvern or Arthur at Badon. He was a follower of Christus Victor.
May I smile at the world, the flesh, and devils. Thanks, Papaw.