Chapter 17- Spring 1920

Spring 1920

Catherine passed by her bedroom mirror and glanced at herself. She always felt a sense of shock at seeing herself. She looked like Harriet, not Catherine. So often, she almost expected to see her 20 or 30 year old self peering back at her. But she saw a woman old and frail, with thin pursed lips. She looked down at her hands. They were gnarled with very purple veins spider-webbing in every direction. She picked up the old Bible Harriet had given her so many years ago. She could hardly hold it without its falling apart in her hands. But it was precious to her. It had changed her life, her marriage. It had given her Gwendolyn. She set the Bible down and picked up a picture of herself, Gwendolyn, and her granddaughter Sophia. What a blessed life I have lived. She thought of all that she had seen. The completion of a railroad. The building of many churches and schools. On the streets outside her house, she watched horses and carriages turn to motorized vehicles. She remembered when she first heard of the “horseless carriage” and how she had laughed at the idea. She watched the girls go from petticoats and full skirts to dresses sleek and slim and short.

She carefully placed the picture down and picked up the Bible again. She leafed through it until she came to the Psalms, her comfort. Tucked away in the Psalms was Dane’s letter. The last she would ever hear from him. The years did not make the pain go away. She missed him more in this very moment than she ever had before. The pain was not so searing as it had been all those years ago, but it was present nonetheless. She never moved from the little house along the Mississippi. She raised Gwendolyn there, alone. She baked bread with her and talked with her of love and life. She cried with her when Grandpa Charles had died, and went Grandma Elizabeth died shortly thereafter. She thought of Dane and the seemingly endless amount of money he had left her. She had joyously done just as he had wished in his letter. She sent significant amounts of money to missionaries everywhere. She thought of the schools and supplies the money sent to the Freedmen’s Bureau. She thought of the evangelists sent to Ecuador and China. She looked up and whispered, I miss him. Oh, how I’ve missed him. But You knew what You were doing, Jesus. You knew.

She read Dane’s letter over again and the tears settled between the wrinkles in the corners of her eyes. I will see you soon, my dear, she whispered, pressing the letter to her heart.

 

Ever After

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Chapter 16- Winter 1864

Winter 1864

The black clouds smoldered above the city. The very ground cried out for relief from it’s thirst. How cruelly it was salted and burned. Homes burned. Crops burned. Oh, the crying of children! No, no. Not children. They could not possibly have burned children. Did they? Could they? Dear, God! And the men, singing. Oh, why are they singing? John Brown’s Body. Screaming women and children. The dry and thirsty ground.

 

“Forgive me, Father. Receive my soul.” As the dry scorched soil desperately soaked up his lifeblood, he breathed his last and his soul left his body lifeless on the barren fields of the deserted Confederate lands.

 

Postmarked December 16th, 1864.

 

My Dearest Catherine,

How I hope this reaches you, in case I never do return. I need you to know that I have been made to know what a bad sort of man I am. I came here, thinking that I would fight for righteousness cause, to free the slave and be a part of bringing justice to the country. I would have told you that the Union soldier was altogether more righteous than the Confederate. I left home thinking I was a good man. I now know that I am not. I never have been. I will spare you the atrocities I have witnessed, but I feel you must know that I, who thought myself so good and righteous and just, have not only witnessed but taken part. I have been as much a scoundrel as any man. In the misery of facing the darkness of my heart, I thought of your words to me so many years ago, when you said that you had changed only after you came to believe that you were not a good sort of woman. I do not know whether believing God would forgive me gave me the courage to face the badness of my wrongdoings, or whether facing the badness of my wrongdoings has made me lift my face to God. I do not know in which order it happened. My soul changed so quickly. I understand you more now than ever. I do not know what made you see, but I know what has opened my eyes, and I know that when I thought myself a decent fellow, I was not being honest with myself. Before this, I could never have faced the kind of man I truly am.  All those times, you have told me that you had been changed by the very blood of Jesus, I did not understand. I do now, my dear. I do. If only I could hold you in my arms now, I would be a different sort of man, Don’t let Gwen forget me, my love. Read this letter to her when she grows, and make sure she knows that she is a very dearly loved girl.

Oh, how I love you.

Your husband forever

Dane

P.S With the railroad finished, you will be seeing a great profit from the shares I bought years ago. You will be able to live off a very small portion of it, actually. With the oil shares, I fear you shall hardly know what to do with it. If there is any way the money can be used to bring a great many people to what you and now what I have discovered, I trust you will know how.

Dane Johnson was killed in Sherman’s famous March to the Sea. He would never know that the very march in which he lost his life ended the War. Slavery was over, and the Union saved. The very thing Catherine and Harriet had prayed for so many times. Little did Catherine know it would be at the cost of her own beloved. Dane would never know the part he played. He would see only the atrocities that men with him committed. The burning of land, the tormenting of Confederate citizens, the murder, the bullet as it hit him square in the chest.

Faithful are the Wounds of a Friend

Let’s talk about reproof. Yeah, I know, not a very popular topic, but it merits discussion as the Word of God talks about it. I will attempt to answer some common questions about why it is important that a church actively practices biblical reproof.

When should I reprove someone?

Go for restoration, not revenge.

When someone has wronged you, and your heart is right toward that person, reproof is the next step. How do you know if your heart is right in reproving someone? Ask yourself, “Do I want to speak to this person for a sense of revenge and justice? Or do I genuinely care about this individual and want to see her free from entrapment in this particular sin?” If you can honestly answer with the latter, then the next right thing is to go to that person in love. If you attempt to reprove someone out of anger or a need for revenge or the desire to put that person in her place, it is likely to go really really poorly, leaving more hurt feelings and bitterness than before. The goal of reproof should always be restoration and never revenge.

What if that Person does not Respond Well? 

If you have already spent time praying for this person, and you are certain that your motivation in talking to this person is coming out of a love for God and for them as well as a desire to see them grow, change, and benefit, then you have no business worrying about how they will respond. How you reprove someone is your deal. How someone responds to it is their deal. The only time that there is an exception to this general principle is when someone has a stacked history of blowing up in response to loving rebuke. In such cases, perhaps it is better simply to pray for that person. I’m not claiming to be an authority on this. This is just my thought. If you find yourself wronged by someone and with a heart that genuinely has that person’s best interest at heart, but that person has a history of blowing up in the face of loving reproof, I might consider talking to a pastor or elder before you make a decision about what you are going to do.

What if someone reproves me, but I really don’t think I did anything wrong?

This can happen. Perhaps you did something wrong, perhaps you did not. But either way, this person is coming to you saying that you have offended or sinned. The first thing to do is to remain calm. Give the person coming to you the benefit of the doubt. Assume that they are coming to you out of love and genuine concern for your well-being. Then ask yourself, “Is there any morsel of truth to what they are saying?” If there is, acknowledge it and commit to bring that area of your life before Jesus. If you believe that what you have done was the right choice, at least commit to praying about it and asking God to search your heart. Always thank the person for being concerned for your well-being and for your spiritual life and growth. Even if this person came to you with an angry and vengeful heart, they will likely be taken aback by your humble response, and you will have helped move the relationship toward restoration.

Lack of Reproof leads to Gossip

Gossip usually doesn’t happen because someone wakes up one day and decides they are going to slander someone and turn people against them for no reason. Gossip usually happens because someone has felt hurt, maybe even violated. It happens because people want to feel validated. They want someone to hear their side of the story and to sympathize with them. It is rarely as malicious as you might think. Gossip usually comes from hurting hearts- hurting hearts that have not been restored to the person who hurt them. When someone is hurt and prays to God for help in forgiveness, makes his heart right toward the person who hurt him, and goes to the person in love, gossip has no chance. It is stamped out before it even begins. A church free of gossip is a beautiful thing. But even when gossip does happen, you can still apply all of these same principles of reproof and go to that person. Otherwise, you will end up gossiping about someone who was gossiping. A bit hypocritical, wouldn’t you say?

I don’t like confrontation. Why should I bother?

Because if you don’t, Bitterness has opportunity to rule in your heart.

Without active reproof, churches will fall apart as bitterness festers in hearts. Members will come and go, but few will remain and see the fruit that comes from lasting relationships. When people wrong us, we have a few choices. We can try to forget about it and act like it never happened. But even if we forgive the person who hurt us, we will not have the opportunity for a deeper relationship with them, and all of our friendships will remain surface level.

We can let it fester and grow bitter. Now, this is obviously not the right choice, but unfortunately it is the one many people choose because it just sort of feels good to hang on to that resentment. Too often,  people intend to forgive and move on, but they never actually forgive. As much as they intended to forgive….as much as they wanted to forgive….when they hear that person’s name, they cringe. When they see that person in the lobby at church, they look the other way. A person who leaves enough bitterness to fester in his soul will, when once enough people in the church have wronged him, eventually leave and start the whole process over at a new church, thinking there will be better people there when the truth is, the problem was in his heart all along. The only real solution to deal with someone who has wronged you is reproof. Reproof, when done in a biblical manner, restores and deepens relationships, builds trust, and keeps a church  functioning together for the long hall.

“Faithful are the Wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Proverbs 27:6