David Dyer, from Tennessee shares his life in Story,
as only this story-teller and poet could do
Psalm 22:5-6“They cried unto Thee, and were delivered: they trusted in Thee, and were not confounded. But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.”
~ Of Old Men and Newborns ~
In the early, wee hours of a warm summer morning, within a room bathed in the ghastly gloom of darkness, the wispy thin lad of only fifteen years ardently agonized.
Thoroughly terrified and trembling with fear, he lay sleeplessly inert atop smooth, crisply-ironed sheets; sheets with which his saintly grandmother, with her strong, able hands had neatly dressed and prepared the guestroom bed.
The hushed, tediously repetitious droning of ordinary nighttime noises seemed a thousand times magnified as the anxious youngster attempted to position his tremulous body as still as stone. His perked, ever-attentive ears strained to ascertain the location and identity of the terrifying crawling, gnawing sounds that drummed incessantly upon his hearing.
Convinced that something cataclysmic and dreadful was destined to occur; his quiescent body silently shuddered, the quivering limbs fearful to hazard even the slightest of movements.
Minutes passed like hours as his tormented mind conjured villainous visions of his past; frightful apparitions of wrongdoing that he knew would serve to entice the assuredness of God's fearful wrath.
In the days of his early childhood, his mother and father had been church going Christians; and concerning spiritual matters: they had endeavored to raise him right. As a small child, he had passed numerous spiritually inspirational evenings at home with these godly parents. He still yet had fond memories of listening with awe as his father and visiting church members (and on numerous occasions, out of town preachers and evangelists) discussed and expounded the precepts of God's Holy Word.
Had it been only a couple times, or was it perhaps three? Times of conviction and sorrow in which he had tearfully rushed forward and knelt upon the invitational altar of various small churches and prayed desperately for God to save his hopelessly lost and sinful soul.
Three he supposed the number to be: three exceedingly sorrowful, remorsefully repentant trips: each tearful trek transpiring on separate occasions. Yet, he knew that even the embarkation of each of these ventures had been in vain, and he realized for a certainty that he had still yet remained unsaved, hopelessly lost and without God.
He continued to lie rigidly still and frighteningly fixed as his increasingly troubled mind darted aimlessly through the continually growing recollections of his past sinful misdeeds. Fearful of remaining within the oppressiveness of the atmosphere pervading the unlighted bedroom any longer; his heightened senses having rendered him incapable of enduring the appalling anguish induced by the harrowing, thundering, crawling sounds; he cautiously slid his lean, sparse body across the undisturbed sheets, until his tottering, bare feet at last contacted the cool sheathing of linoleum that covered the bedroom’s old pine sub-flooring.
Barely able to restrain himself from wildly dashing to the safety of his grandparent's bedroom, he paused only long enough to climb clumsily into the discarded pair of rumpled, faded, tattered blue jeans. Then slowly, and ever so quietly, he exited the abominable bedroom, crossing the spacious darkened hallway, and stood shamefacedly silent, poised only a few feet from where his aged grandparents lay sleeping.
After what seemed to him an excruciatingly lengthy period of time, a disquieting, agonizing interval expended struggling with the escalating embarrassment that had forced a deepening red flush across his thin, whisker-less cheeks, he softly called out for his grandfather.
Waiting only a few torturous seconds, he repeated this whispery, hushed, yet plaintive call. Repeatedly, he uttered the same mournful call; and with each ensuing intonation the strength of his voice increased, while the tremor in tone shrieked higher and higher.
At length, he heard the faintly audible, muffled, rustling sounds, as his grandfather began to dress in the darkness of the master bedroom. A comforting wave of calmness and relief crawled unhurriedly through his frightened body, then soon dissipated under a rushing flood of self-consciousness and timidity. Oh how he longed to have remained in bed, how he wished he had never called out to his grandfather. Reared by a strong, manly father, he already had learned to despise weakness, although in his heart of hearts he knew that he himself was as weak as water, and strength and manliness were not at all his forte. Yet, with his head hanging limply, bowed bashfully low, and his tear-clouded eyes staring boringly into the tops of his naked feet, he patiently waited for the turning of the tarnished brass doorknob leading to his grandfather's bedroom.
Time seems always to freeze when each singular second counts, and to this unsettled lad, it appeared that surely time had ceased to move as he stood somewhat reluctantly awaiting his grandfather’s arrival.
Oh why had he left the softness of the guestroom bed? Why had he ever been so foolish as to interrupt his grandfathers much needed rest, so imprudently, so cowardly, calling for the elderly patriarch? He ruefully regretted his blunder; for never would he be able to find the proper words to relate the fountainhead of his dreadful plight; unveil the burdens, those harrowing encumbrances that haunted his troubled soul; reveal all to his, sometimes austere, aged progenitor. Never would he be able to divulge the nature of his actual feelings, truthfully disclose the source of the terrifying torments that tore so relentlessly at his tremulous, sin-blackened soul.
At last, the greaseless hinges of the bedroom door began sluggishly to creak and grate, as the thick, reddish-brown pine portal inched slowly opened, and the shadowy shape of his grandfather’s form finally emerged. Vividly framed within the engirding of the unclosed doorway, the old man’s frail, diminutive figure stood nebulously silhouetted against the ambiance of the golden-yellow summer moonlight as the faithful lunar light-giver cast her brightly gleaming beams through the uncovered bedroom window, the aggregation of her resplendent, refracting rays only faintly illuminating the exposed areas of the heretofore darkened hallway.
His grandfather was a slender, slightly built, yet surprisingly powerful man, his body having been badly broken from numerous years of excessive labors and toil, along with multiple injuries he had sustained; debilitating injuries, the likes of which most other men might never have survived.
The lad rather reluctantly and quite hesitantly related the source of his fearful predicament, ardently alluding to the inexplicable terror of those dreadful crawling, gnawing sounds, perhaps an infestation of rats within the walls, he mournfully implored, all the while cringing inside for this obvious display of unchecked weakness.
Yet, he spoke not a word about his fear of an imminent, untimely death, nor did he relate the tale of the torturous, terrors he had experienced when confronted with the appalling onslaught of those nefarious, nighttime apparitions, that unbidden, endless entourage of disquieting spirits poignantly portraying a mélange of the awful sins committed during his mischievous past.
As indeed, he surely failed to relate any information at all concerning those fiercely flickering, fiery flames of hell that seemed to leap about and lap their terrible, terrifying, tormenting tongues so greedily and hungrily at the very fringes of his solicitous, unsettled soul.
The tired, rugged, stern old gentleman patiently listened, then rather carefully and gently comforted his grandson, lovingly urging him to return to the safety of his hastily abandoned bed. Softly yet firmly, he assured his favorite house guest that there could be nothing amiss within the walls; that there were no rats within the yet uncompleted, old, frame, farm-style house his own crippled, yet capable hands had skillfully constructed.
Reluctantly, the disturbed young fellow slowly, somewhat hesitantly turned, and as the tender, sweeping motion from his grandfather's three-fingered hand gently ruffled his hay-yellow hair, and with his small, tanned feet plodding rather unsteadily across the faintly illuminated hallway, he returned to the normally comfortable confines of the awaiting bed.
In helplessness and hopeless resignation, he compliantly crawled across the smoothed, tautly-gathered bottom sheet, feeling its coolness against his warm, flushed flesh, while pulling protectively at the top sheet, snuggling and tucking it safely beneath his chin. His eyes stared blankly upwards for several seconds, until momentarily catching sight of a fleeting shadow, trapped in the net of a dancing moonbeam as it haphazardly dashed across the darkened room; then both quivering eyelids quickly clinched tightly closed.
Startled, and further frightened by this chance glimpse of the transient shadow, his mind raced frantically again to the dreadful fear and apprehension spawned during the chaotic convergence of his earlier dilemma.
The harrowing, discontenting noises rattled mercilessly on with a resonance much louder than before; so loud it seemed he could actually feel the tiny pointed toenails as the illusory rats scratched relentlessly against the hollow bedroom walls.
On this very night he would die, of that particular fact he seemed quite confident. Actually, of two singular things, he was quite certain; tonight he would die, and just as surely as that dreadful hand of death came, it was in the terrible flames of a raging hell that he would eternally burn. Yes, of these two things, there absolutely could be no doubt.
My sin, he postulated, my sin, my sin! Oh God, oh God, my sin!
He had little notion for what length of time he had thusly lain, for when the phantasm of fear pays a visit in the dark, wee hours of the night, sending its spectral summons to a young lad of merely fifteen summers, old father time just seems to slowly crawl along. Perhaps it was ten minutes, or perhaps half an hour, or maybe even longer; yet in this undeterminably lengthy epoch he lay insensible, his frail frame inexplicably immobilized, although desperately yearning to arise and reawaken his grandfather; for above all things, he did not wish to enter the burning flames of a fiery hell!
The harried lad did not remember climbing out of the large cushiony bed upon this second occasion, nor did he recollect pulling on his trousers and making the short trek across the dusky hallway that again deposited him before the unopened door to his grandfather's room. He could only faintly recall the soft, whimpering cry that agonizingly scratched its way from his larynx, traveling upward through his dry, hoarse throat and then finally, pushed itself hurriedly past his stammering, trembling lips, bursting forth and reverberating into the humid, nighttime air.
“Granddaddy! Granddaddy!” He repeatedly voiced the lamentable, piteous, mournful cry. “Granddaddy! Granddaddy! Oh, Granddaddy!”
As he stood in the abject loneliness of the dark, unlighted hallway, his wildly vacillating, uncertain mind delved deep within its cranial repository, that seldom used sector that housed the infrequently used portions of his far too limited vocabulary; a severely limited lexicon he had foolishly stashed tightly away in favor of football, baseball, girls, and other frivolous, boyish priorities. He sought diligently, desperately searching for the proper words, the appropriate confessional utterances that his parched, fear-thickened tongue would soon be required to articulate.
He was not attentive to the rustling sounds emanating from the other side of the tightly closed bedroom door as his worn and weary old grandfather for the second time donned his only recently removed trousers.
He continued searching, earnestly searching, and now quite frantically exploring for proper words, bright, intelligent words to enunciate upon the emergence of the sometimes gruff and stern grandfather that he loved so dearly.
With his tortured mind racing unceasingly, the fears, the horrible nagging fears crept furtively from within his very being, swelling up and passing through the length of his trembling, convulsing body. My sins, my sins! My awful, awful sins!
Suddenly the form of his grandfather appeared squarely in front of him. His misshapen, bowed body stood weak and quite wearisome, obviously further fatigued from these episodes of interrupted sleep; being physically only a shell of the strong, proud man he once had been.
Yet, with a sort of forced tenderness, his rough, callused hand gently touched the troubled lad lightly upon his unclothed, slightly shivering, trembly shoulder. Then with a strong, understanding voice he made query as to what manner of disturbance had further agitated his precious grandson.
Helplessly stammering, the frightened lad began to speak, as with half-crying, half-choking, barely intelligible sounds, he reiterated the earlier accounting of the terrifying noises emanating from within the farmhouse walls.
Calmly listening, the old, retired railroad electrician, an old-fashioned country gentleman, the sort that always removes his hat in the presence of a lady, endured the tearful teenager's second accounting of the dreadful bedroom rat invasion.
Perhaps out of frustration, or maybe from countless years of profound wisdom, yet surely out of the impression that only the sweet Holy Ghost can place in the heart of one of God's faithful children, the sage old gospel preacher finally pronounced the much needed words.
His soft gray eyes filled with kindness as he peered past the implication of the carefully selected phrases the frightened youth had hurriedly garbled, as through a truly discerning, sacred sagacity, he looked searchingly on, delving knowingly into the very depths of his grandson's troubled soul.
"Son, you've been saved, and you know Jesus will protect you from all harm,” he thoughtfully exclaimed.
"No! No! Granddaddy!" the lad practically screamed out his admission, as enormous rivulets of streaming, stinging saline tears burst from his eyes, before ripping wide gullies down his reddened, blistering cheeks. "I'm not saved Granddaddy! I’m not saved! I’ve never been saved at all! Oh Granddaddy, Granddaddy, I'm not saved!"
This once proud, athletically endowed old man, having been for the second time unceremoniously aroused from his much-needed rest in the darkness of the early summer morning, standing stooped shouldered and wearied, his tired, bare feet planted resolutely upon the worn linoleum floor, knew exactly what to do.
Switching on the overhead light in an area known to this old couple only as the middle room, (a term engendered, one might suppose, for lack of any better designation); he then picked up his aged, well-worn, black-backed Bible. Then with that good old gospel book in one hand, and clutching his Holy Ghost convicted, tempestuously weeping grandson with the other, he patiently plodded towards the living room divan.
As his back bowed beneath the softly shimmering rays from the living room lamp, the awkwardness of the old man’s missing fingers proved no difficulty for him as he deftly turned the tissue thin pages until the blessed book stood opened at the Gospel According to Saint John. Then with the lad’s recently aroused grandmother prayerfully postured across the room, her toil-tired, aged body resting uncomfortably upon her humbly bent knees as she offered supplications and intercessory petitions for her unsaved grandson, in the kindest, sweetest voice that ere fell upon the hearing of a pitiful lost and dying sinner, with his erratic, asthmatic breathing shallow and strained, the concerned grandfather carefully began to speak.
From the third chapter, verse sixteen, he read. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
With tenderness seldom seen in the gender, male, he quite cautiously questioned the lad to assure he clearly understood the meaning of the words penned in this wonderful, well-known verse of scripture. Then with patient, practiced fingers, he quickly turned backward two pages to the first chapter of that same Gospel of John.
Speaking in a strong, clear voice, its timbre both calm and sweetly serene, the kind old country gentleman carefully read verses eleven and twelve. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”
"Do you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ son?"
The lad slowly nodded his head in acquiescence, his red, sorrowful eyes still gushing with great goblets of bitter tears.
Yet, the old man did not stop there, for he had bent his knees in the old sawdust trails in camp-meeting revivals and brush-arbors; knelt with drunks, prostitutes, and a menagerie of other social outcasts, and he knew something about the real salvation. Yes, he knew something about the sort of salvation that sticks, the kind that gets down deep, plowing into the darkened pits of the blackened, sin-sickened soul; the kind that brings sweet release and comfort; producing a joy unspeakable.
A simple nodding of the head would never suffice for a discerning, old-fashioned gospel preacher that would just as soon lick a person as to spit if it would get him to Jesus. Those precious, remaining fingers, fatigued and haggard from a past hard-pressed, deftly turned the fragile pages of the blessed book again, this time alighting in the apostle John's fifth chapter, verse twenty-four.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
"That's the Lord Jesus talking son; that's the Blessed Saviour talking, and He’s talking to you,” he calmly assured. "Do you really understand how much God loves you, and that He sent His own precious Son to die on the cross for you?"
The stream of tears begin to subside somewhat for the lad, as this old man he loved so very truly continued to leaf through the frayed pages of his faded black-backed, well-worn Bible. He had finished with his readings of the carefully selected passages recorded in the Gospel of John. Now he would embark upon a journey through the very marrow of the soul-winner’s message; cautiously guiding his favorite grandson down the dustiest, roughest, rockiest, most remarkable road any sorrowful sinner's two feet ever had the privilege, spiritually to tread.
As the blessed book fell opened to the apostle Paul's epistle to the Romans, the old man was clearly within the bounds of his most treasured territory now. Why, he must have cut his teeth on this Roman epistle!
(The toe-headed lad had spent many a slow, sultry summer evening seated upon the old couple’s banister-enclosed, wooden-planked, covered front porch listening to the sweet melodious sounds of his Grandma's crackling voice. The surrounding air seemed filled with glorious gladness as that dear, white-haired, saintly old soul would hum and sing the kind of old-fashioned gospel hymns that would stand up the hair on the back of any listener’s neck. As she softly lifted her sometimes off-tune, untrained voice in praise to her Lord, the gently creaking, rickety old wooden rocking chair seemed to keep perfect time to those sweetly sang, soul-stirring songs of Zion. Yes sir, there she would sit with her old worn-out Bible lying opened across her lap; a Bible that she must have read through from cover to cover more times than the lad had hairs upon his head. With the day's chores all having been completed, she had nothing left to do but spend a couple hours reading God's wonderful Word and singing songs of praise to her blessed Saviour. Then afterwards, as darkness would overtake the setting sun, she would retire to the quietness and seclusion of the back bedroom. Knelling those poor, pitiful, old worn out knees against the hardness of the pine-planked floor, she would spend a while just talking to her sweet Jesus - the Saviour of her own sainted soul.)
"It's Romans chapter three, verse twenty-three" the old man said, "Look at the words with me as I read if you would son." “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
Yes sir, he was traveling along that old Roman road all right; and brother, you can believe that he had been up and down that road it seemed to him a thousand times or more. Yes sir, this old man really did know something! Because, if you lay hold to a Holy Ghost drawn sinner; one with the power of conviction oozing out of every single pore; and then you go to dragging him headlong down that rough old dusty Roman road… Well, more likely than not, God is just liable to place another lost lamb into that glorious heavenly fold; enter one more name into that precious Lamb’s book of life.
"Look here son, notice what this verse of Scripture says?"
He had turned his Bible to the sixth chapter of Romans now, and the poor old man's breathing was getting shallower by the second. He certainly had no business being up at this late of an hour; he was not a healthy man. However, there was a glimmer of youth flashing in those soft, wonderfully-gray eyes, and if someone had chance scattered some sawdust about that living room floor, and perhaps placed an old, rough, oak-board mourner’s bench amongst them, the old man well might have peeled away forty years from his three score and ten. This was his stalking ground, bowed down on his knees in the wee morning hours with nothing but a repentant, sorrowful sinner, the blessed holy book, and the sweet, convicting power of the Holy Spirit of God.
His slender, slightly bent finger rested shakily just below the twenty-third verse, as he carefully read: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The old man's voice gradually tailed off as he slowly and softly repeated the words penned in that often-used passage found in the sixth chapter of the apostle Paul's Roman epistle. Something was taking place within the innermost part of troubled lad now. Of a certainty, he had heard these Scriptures quoted on numerous occasions in times past. Why, he even knew each of them by heart, having committed them to memory long years before. Indeed, it had not been that many years past since he himself had used them in witnessing to one of his neighborhood playmates. Afterwards, he had taken him along with him to attend a Sunday night church service and little Billy had received Jesus as his Saviour - actually gotten saved.
Yet, on this muggy, momentous summer morning, something quite different, something awesome and new stirred deep within the lad’s heart. He did not know what it was, but he knew it was novel, something distinctly fresh and strangely powerful. And whatever this thing might be, it seemed to be welling up from within, charging into his parched throat and very nearly choking him to death.
The youth's worn and weary grandfather's heavenly guided fingers turned a few more pages then paused quietly, allowing the sacred silence of the sweetest summer night in his trembling grandson's life to sort of permeate the early morning air. "Son are you sorry for your sins?"
His firm, steady, inquiring voice shattered the momentary silence, as he gazed deep into the young lad's face.
"Yes, Granddaddy" the tearful child replied.”
"Would you like to receive Jesus into your heart son?" The old man calmly and assuredly continued to question his grandson.
"Yes, Granddaddy" confessed the broken-hearted lad, his voice still weak and trembling.
"Well, here's what God's Word says about that son" the sainted old man confidently assured the attentive lad, as he turned the pages of his Holy Bible further along, moving deeper into Paul’s epistle to the Romans.
Then those experienced, soft, sure eyes bent toward the two verses of Scripture that would cast off the blindness forever from his grandson’s own spiritually darkened eyes. The cherished passage that would forever loosen that baffling blindness that had engulfed the lad’s spiritual eyes (those eyes of understanding which open into the very heart of every man and woman, and every boy and girl).
The kindly old gentleman who always referred to his wife as the madam, never swore or uttered any unacceptable expletives or curse words, his slender body always producing a slight bow of acquiescence whenever making the acquaintance of a lady, (invariably with his left hand firmly clutching his recently removed, light-brown felt hat close by his side), slowly, quite distinctly read the glorious words penned in those two life-transforming verses. He read them in the hearing of a poor lost sinner boy who believed that he had not one hope in the whole wide world. He read them in the gradually cooling, early, wee hours of a long and tiresome morning, a life-changing morning following a warm, turbulent, troublesome summer night.
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteous; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
After the old man finished reading, or perhaps quoting from memory, those gracious words recorded in verses nine and ten in the tenth chapter of the apostle Paul’s epistle to the Romans, friends, something truly extraordinary happened. The Spirit of God took up where the old preacher-man, railroader, and grandfather left off. The pitiful, disconsolate, wayward youth suddenly was sorry for what his own, personal sin had done to Jesus. Terribly sorry that he in his rebellion and unbelief had made the precious Saviour to suffer upon that cruel cross of Calvary.
God, in His grace and mercy, sent the rueful youth the measure of faith that in times past, he never had been able to muster; and He included a full dose of regenerative repentance as well. The lad believed God’s Word and he received the crucified and risen Jesus as his Lord and Saviour forever. Yes, Satan lost him one on the old Roman road that night, and the Lord Jesus placed another jewel in an old road-weary saint's crown.
The old man placed his still muscular, assuring arm around his prize grandson's frail shoulders, while both, still down on their knees before the living room divan, thoughtfully and earnestly thanked God for the lad's salvation. When they arose, the old man half-hugged his grandson; something the lad could not remember the rough old railroader ever having done before.
For several minutes, the old gentleman’s joyously shouting, weeping wife heartily hugged her little grandson, while her rejoicing lips continuously praised God for his love, and abundant grace and mercy. At length she departed, tediously making her way towards the sparsely lighted hallway, at last, disappearing amid the darkness of the bedroom. As the old man and the lad walked towards that same hallway, the dear old saint of God carefully placed his Bible atop the shift-robe where it always laid, then he and the youth exchanged good-nights, with each retiring to their respective beds.
As the newest child born into the family of God lay his head against the stiffness of the starched, carefully ironed pillowcase, the delightful redolence of the fresh-air-dried material overpowering all of the other aromas assaulting his slightly flaring nostrils, the perfect peace that passeth all understanding filled his sweetly solaced, spiritually satisfied soul.
He thought of God’s love, mercy and grace, of Jesus the righteous, faithful Saviour, the joys of salvation, and oh yes, he thought of his dear, wonderful, old Granddaddy.
It was not possible that the newborn lad could ever have known that in little more time than a year and a half he would be called upon to help bear the coffin enshrouding his precious Granddaddy's used-up and worn-out body. Yes, this still youthful, inexperienced lad would be required to assist in carrying the last remains of his most beloved grandparent, the dear old saint that had led him to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, across a blustery, cold cemetery to a freshly scooped gravesite.
It was there on a bitter frigid winter's day that he would stand by the graveside, his tearless eyes scrupulously watching as the undertaker solemnly lowered that simple, unadorned coffin, interring the worn, feeble body of his beloved granddaddy to the encompassing coldness of the frozen tundra.
Do you reckon that the saints in glory burst out in my old Grandma's favorite hymn, "Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves, we shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves" the night my dear old Granddaddy led me to know Jesus as my Saviour?
~~ At The Cross ~~
and did my Savior bleed
the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
body slain, sweet Jesus, Thine,
it for crimes that I had done
might the sun in darkness hide
might I hide my blushing face
But drops of grief
can ne’er repay