This is part three of a three part series about Carl, a plain-spoken country fellow accustomed to hard work; a farmer and retired stone quarry worker. Carl’s lymphoma is now taking a toll on him and he’s spending most of his time in bed. Carl’s heart’s desire continues to be to serve God, but he admits that at times he questions his worth and prays for God to take him home. The Apostle Paul understood the power of weakness and infirmity. Paul wrote: “To keep me from becoming conceited…there was given me a thorn in my flesh…Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me…For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
I’m confident that God’s power is being made perfect in Carl’s weakness; for Carl has inspired me and I believe this final story will inspire and challenge you. For the final time, here’s Carl: “I used to have a booth at the flea market. There was a fellow who had a booth near mine. He was a tough guy, a motorcycle rider type. He had a nasty turn and a raw attitude. He thought he owned the world. You know, people are afraid of a guy like that. Maybe I should have been. But I wasn’t.
“He treated an old man real mean one day and I told him, ‘I don’t like the way you do. I wouldn’t be like that. You can’t do that here. We all try to get along.’ Then I told him, ‘What you need is a friend. I’m going to be your friend.’ He told me, ‘I don’t have any friends. I don’t get along with nobody.’ I told him, ‘The Devil just has you all torn up.’ Then he said, ‘You don’t know me.’ And I said, ‘No I don’t, but I would like to know you and help you.’ He said, ‘No one can help me.’
“The breaker box for all the booths at the flea market was located in his booth. It kicked off a lot and just for spite, he wouldn’t turn the breaker back on, so none of us had lights. I told him to turn it back on and he said, ‘No, I don’t need it.’ There were bigger men than I was there but they were afraid of him. He looked like he would slap your jaws. But I asked him, ‘Why can’t you turn that back on?’ He said, ‘That’s not my problem.’ But I said, ‘Now listen, I’m gonna turn that back on.’ Then he asked, ‘How do you know you will? Maybe you will and maybe you won’t.’ Then I told him, ‘you just watch me.’ They all said, ‘Carl, he’s gonna hit you.’ And I said, ‘No he ain’t’, but he could have snapped me in two. I don’t know why I was so bold. The Lord just gave me boldness.
“After that he kept the door to the breaker box open so it wouldn’t over heat again. I went back and thanked him and told him, ‘You’ll get along with others better that way.’ He said, ‘I don’t care what they think.’ But he never shut that door again. He would look at me and grin and give man an ‘okay’ with his thumb.
“After I got cancer, while I was taking chemotherapy, he would ask me, ‘Mr. Brown, how are you doing today?’ Once he got a big ‘get-well’ card and took it around the flea market and told everybody, ‘I want everybody’s name on it!’ His name was at the top. He even called me at my home to ask about how I was doing and said, ‘This is your friend…’ A lot of people told me I shouldn’t fool with him. But he needed a friend. He’s gonna get saved yet.”
Carl’s example reminds me of the lyrics of the contemporary Christian song by Bruce Carroll titled, “Who will be Jesus”: “He came home from work last night to find that she was gone. Now he’s spending his first Sunday sitting in the pew alone. There are whispers all around him, his heart breaks into. He’s wandering who’ll reach out and help him make it through. Who will be Jesus to him? Who’ll show the love that restores him again? He doesn’t need a judge he needs a friend. Who will be Jesus to him…Wounded people everywhere and when they look at us do they see Jesus there? Who will be Jesus too them?”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…for if you love those who love you, what reward have you….if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others, (Matthew 5:43-48)?”
Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-357-6091 or at [email protected] You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths: Insights for living from those who have finished the course”, at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.