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‘Whose boy are you?’

By AL EARLEY

Religion columnist

I had a wonderful conversation with a woman this weekend who said, “My life changed when I knew I belonged to Jesus.” It reminded me of a story that preacher Fred Craddock tells in his book, “Is It Well with Your Family?” He and his wife were on vacation in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. One night in a restaurant, they noticed a distinguished looking, white-haired man visiting with the guests. Craddock whispered to his wife, “I hope he doesn’t come over here.” But sure enough, the man came over to their table.

“Where you folks from?” he asked in a friendly voice.

“Oklahoma,” Craddock answered.

“Splendid state, I hear, although I’ve never been there,” the stranger said. “What do you do for a living?”

“I teach homiletics at the graduate seminary of Phillips University,” Craddock replied.

“Oh, so you teach preachers how to preach, do you? Well, I’ve got a story to tell you.” And with that, the gentleman pulled up a chair and sat down at the table.

Dr. Craddock groaned and thought to himself, “Oh, no! Here comes another preacher story! It seems like everybody has at least one.”

The man stuck out his hand. “I’m Ben Hooper,” he said. “I was born not far from here across the mountains. My mother wasn’t married when I was born, so I had a pretty hard time. When I started to school, my classmates had a name for me, and it wasn’t a very nice name. I used to go off by myself at recess and lunch time because the things they said to me cut me so deep.

“When I was about 12 years old, a new preacher came to our church. I would always go in late and slip out early. But one day the preacher said the benediction so fast I got caught and had to walk out with the crowd. I could feel every eye in the church on me. Just about the time I got to the door I felt a big hand on my shoulder. I looked up and the preacher was looking right at me. ‘Who are you, son? Whose boy are you?’ he asked. I felt this big weight coming down on me. It was like a big black cloud. Even the preacher was putting me down. But as he looked down at me, studying my face, he began to smile a big smile of recognition. ‘Wait a minute!’ he said. ‘I know who you are. I see the family resemblance now. You are a child of God.’ With that he slapped me across the rump and said, ‘Boy, you’ve got a great inheritance. Go and claim it.’

The old man looked across the table at Fred Craddock and said, “Those were the most important words anybody ever said to me, and I’ve never forgotten them.” With that, he smiled shook hands with Craddock and his wife, and moved on to another table to greet old friends.

And as he walked away, Craddock — a native Tennessean himself — remembered from his studies of Tennessee history that on two occasions the people of Tennessee had elected to the office of governor men who had been born out of wedlock. One of them was a man named Ben Hooper.

This reminds me of another story.  When the prophet Samuel was sent by God to anoint the next king of Israel he was sent to the home of Jesse who had at least eight fine, handsome sons.  Each son came before Samuel and he was sure this was the one.  When he saw young David, the eighth son, he wasn’t sure he was hearing from the Lord correctly.  God said, “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7).

Do you ever struggle with issues of self-esteem and believing in yourself?  Do you ever doubt that God had his hand in the creation of every fiber of your being?  What are the lies you need to name, and let go of so you can believe God made you just the way he wants you?  Who are the people who told you those lies so you can forgive them, and learn to live your life victoriously?  I hope you will never forget God has a great plan for your life and wants to help you live out that plan completely.

To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles, visit www.lagrangepres.com.