Photo by Bill Fortney
Jess was born in a little house back in a remote “holler” in Kentucky. The nearest town was the county seat of Wolfe County–the little mountain town in Eastern Kentucky where my wife Lois was born. Jess married Lois’ grandmother. They met at the Senior Citizens Center there in Campton. It’s a small town with it’s own humble charm where there are no strangers.
One summer afternoon Lois and I drove out to visit the old newly-weds. Lois cherished her grandmother, Carlie. They puttered around the kitchen talking and laughing.
Like all self-respecting Kentucky homes, their place had a porch that stretched across the front of the house. Jess and I went out and set down in rockers as evening came on and talked.
I’ve been taught to ask questions and listen when I’m with older people. When you do that older people usually start bringing treasures out of their memory and sharing them with you.
I little at a time he began to tell his stories. I asked him about his place. He was proud of it.
“I was born in this house and I’m going to die here,” he said. “Would you like me to show you around?”
“I’d love that.”
We walked. He showed me his smokehouse and his barns. He showed me his garden. Then he said; “Let me show you something else.”
I followed Jess as he led me along the edge of the woods south of his house. About a hundred yards from the house he stepped into the cool woods onto a narrow path nearly hidden from sight. He led the way for a while then stepped aside and said, “Keep going. Let me follow.”
The footpath took a turn and ended on a slab of gray rock. A steady stream of water ran over the rock and fell into an emrald-green pool about ten or twelve feet below.
I stood for a moment quiet with surprise. I listened to the music of falling water. “How deep is that pool?” I asked?
“That’s what everyone askes,” He said with a smile in his voice. “My brother and I were strong swimmers when we were young. On a hot summer day we would make hay, then we would come here and dive into this pool to cool off. We never found the bottom of that pool.”
I spend my life struggling for language and pictures, for poetic cadences and metaphors to describe the scope and the size and the significance of the love of God revealed in the Bible.
In the book of Romans, Paul’s prose soars when he begins to describe the size and scope of the love of God displayed in the death of His Son Jesus Christ.
Here is how Paul put it:
“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? …For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
You just get the impression Paul is trying to say, “In all my life I’ve never found the bottom of the pool of the love of Christ.”
If I could do it, I would take you to a place where you could stand on a slab of rock and listen the music of the water and stare long into the deep pool of God’s love until your sin and guilt and shame are gone and you are changed you forever. Have you ever done that?
After just a few years together Jess died. The place belonged to Carlie. She didn’t want to live out there alone. She moved back to her humble little trailer-home up on the hill that overlooks Campton. She was very, very careful with her money and she could have sold the place. It would have made her more comfortable and secure in her old age, but she didn’t want to take the place from Jess’s family so she just signed it over to his children and moved back to town.
But we still have the story and I have told it many times. Every time I tell it I’m back on that slab of gray rock listening to the music of falling water and drinking in the beauty of God’s bottomless love through Christ Our Lord.
May 25, 2011