It was in the late 1800s that this took place on my great-grandfather’s farm near Williamsburg, Virginia. You see, that round iron object was a live cannon ball from one of the many Civil War battles that had raged throughout the area only a few decades previous. No doubt, the hired hand who found it mistook it for solid shot and was foolish enough to put that live round in the roaring fire with devastating results.
Now, Harley was left with the task of raising a young family and carrying out a successful farming operation with only one arm. He didn’t let it stop him. Later he sold his farm and moved to the mountains of Spruce Pine, N.C., where they had a successful horse farm. They raised and shipped horses and ponies all across the country. Being the sole caregiver of his ailing mother, Harley followed doctors orders and moved again in the early part of the 20th Century to Conecuh County, Ala. (to be in a warmer climate), where he purchased 2,000 acres and set about to develop a model farm in that part of the state. He introduced new methods of farming and was an occasional contributor to the Birmingham based magazine, “The Progressive Farmer.” He was the first farmer in the area to introduce the tractor in farming. He taught my grandmother, Ina, to chauffer him because he could not operate a car with only one arm. At the age of 12 she was driving all over the countryside. He didn’t let his handicap keep him from being successful or for providing for his family. But, in the end that one accident cost him his life.
It was a cold Sunday morning when, while preparing to go to church, he discovered that the silo had quit working. To start it back up required someone to climb to the top and reset the equipment. Rather than wake the others up, he made the arduous journey up the rickety wooden ladder on the outside of the structure. About halfway up, one of the boards came loose, and with only one arm he was unable to stop the fall. They found his body lying at the base of the silo. Harley Lawrence, my great-grandfather, was dead. In some ways, his death was the result of that tragedy that had taken place so many years before.
That story reminds me of many tragedies I see in people’s lives. Actions do have consequences. You take the sad story of David and Bathsheba in the Bible. David chose to commit adultery with Bathsheba with devastating consequences. Because of David’s poor choice, many people suffered and died. You remember the story. David should have been off leading his troops as King, but instead, stayed home where he got into trouble. Resting one day on his rooftop he spied Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop. One thing led to another and David ends up killing her husband to hide his sin. David had to pay for his sin the rest of his life. Children died, his family fell apart, and his kingdom was severely damaged. All of this was because of a poor choice made by a bored, middle-aged man.
What would have happened if David had turned away from the temptation? Remember that David had everything going for him. He was described as a man after God’s own heart. What caused him to take the steps to this failure? Rather than turn away, he took three deadly steps.
“One evening, David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful.” ( II Sam. 11:2)
He looked, he stared, he observed, he obsessed.
What he didn’t see was:
• The shame that would come to him
• Four sons that would be destroyed
• Hidden consequences that would lead to the disintegration of his kingdom.
Instead he ignored God and did what he wanted to do. He felt instead of thought. He should have repented, turned around and went back into his house. But he didn’t…
And David sent someone to find out about her…” ( II Samuel 11:3
“…she came to him, and he slept with her…Then she went back home.” (II Samuel 11:4).
It was just one night. But, illicit relationships are never as compartmentalized as one hopes it will be. Sexual sin always has unintended consequences. David’s conscience is seared, and he committed the heinous act of murder to cover up his wrongdoing. You know the rest of the story.
In the end, David repented and turned back to God. God fully forgave him for this sin, but David lived with the consequences for the rest of his life.
Once a man was walking along a sandy beach. He turned around a noticed the crooked path he left in the sand. “Just like my life,” he thought, “Every step is crooked.” Hours later he returned to the beach and noticed that the crooked prints had been washed away by the surf. There was no trace of his footprints. The clean moist surface of the sand was a reminder to him that he did not to have to let his past control his future. God forgives us.
How does one receive that forgiveness?
• Run-don’t walk-to God for help!
If you want to see the results read Psalm 32.
What if that hired hand had not placed that live cannon ball under the kettle? What would have happened if David had turned away? We will never know. But we do know this; God is a God of second chances.
Dennis Culbreth is senior pastor at Jasper’s First Baptist Church