I grew up in a pastor’s home. For us, that meant Tuesday evening visitation, a wedding or two, church twice on Sunday and every Wednesday, many funerals, and parsonage living. If you’re not sure what a “parsonage” is, well, let me inform you. Many Baptist churches like the ones my dad served owned a home near the church where the pastor and his family could live. It was usually a nice perk. Growing up, we never had to drive to church. We could play basketball, run, ride our bikes, and even hit golf balls on the fairly large church property. Parsonage living only caused problems for us in about three different ways to my kid eyes back then. First, from time to time cantankerous church members thought my dad should be at their beck and call at midnight for their ingrown toenails, which happened almost exactly like that just a time or two. Second, con artists and professional beggars assumed it was my dad’s duty to mortgage the church property so they could travel out of state to visit their dying parent. They only took cash of course. Third, late evening errands (better worded nearly-heart-attack-inducing-pranks) at my brother’s and my expense kept my dad entertained between the con artists and cantankerous church members. You see, the parsonage we lived in for about eight years stood roughly a short 100 yards from the church doors. About fifty yards out, though, the church’s oldest graveyard spread out right across the most direct route from our house to the church. You could go around it to the left, or right, but you’d walk a good half a mile (well not really) out of the way. To us youngins, those extra steps around felt absurdly ridiculous when you could much more easily slip right through the graveyard.
My dad knew this. So, that mean ole…I mean that troublesome…I should say that trickst…no that old codg…that guy we affectionately called dad,* phoned from the church about dusk one evening to have my mom send my nine year old twin brother and me to the church for an “errand.” Dirty liar.
Unbeknownst to us, he slipped out to the graveyard, snuck in behind a large gravestone, and waited. Hop-a-long and I bounced right past him being none the wiser till that cruel fiend pounced scaring the living daylights out of us. To this day, I still don’t know what the “living daylights” are because after that moment, I had none left. I don’t know how fast I ran, but I do know I beat the socks off my brother back to the house that night. If he remembers differently, I assure you, his memory fails him. That’s one night my longer legs and childhood fears outdid him on both accounts. If we hadn’t screamed so loudly, we would have heard my dad horse cackling as he rolled all over the ground in that graveyard.
Life’s that way sometimes, isn’t it? You find yourself cruising along, headed toward the next item on the to-do-list, only to have some frightful enemy jump out where (and when) you least expect it sending you back the way you came in sheer terror. Or freezing you in shuttering dread. Or shaking you down to your bones. These “life frights” may even take days or years from you. And just like my dad horse laughing, your dreaded enemy is likely cackling at your expense.
I’m glad Jesus doesn’t leave us without help, or hope, in such moments. That day years ago, momma came to our defense. I’m pretty sure she told my dad he’d be buried under one of those gravestones if he ever did such a heartless thing to us again. At least that’s what I imagined her to say when he came laughing into the house while she consoled us. When sin, or Satan, or one of his earthly minions, or life circumstances chase after us, we always, always have the alternative to run back to Jesus. In fact, that’s exactly what he wants us to do.
The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.
1 In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! 2 Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!
He is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.
*Important Note: I’m tempted to believe one of the unmentioned “spiritual gifts” in the Bible could be pestering. And I have learned by experience that my dad mastered the discipline of said gift. In like manner, I am striving to follow in his footsteps, although I have yet to scare my eight year old in a graveyard. But there’s still time 🙂