Harriet Beecher Stowe once said; “When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”
“Let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight)…and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us.”(Hebrews 12:1).
This column is in memory of my Dad Matthew Festus Brewington. He lived from Saturday, January 28, 1911—Sunday, March 10, 1996. My Dad would quite often use everyday life to tell stories and give illustrations. He was quite a story teller. Consider for a moment how God uses stories throughout Scripture to teach us about choices and consequences, sinfulness and repentance, forgiveness and grace. Stories are powerful tools to influence others. They can inspire and motivate. Stories also connect us with one another and help us find meaning and significance. Perhaps stories are God’s way of shaping us into vessels He can use to impact others for His glory. When you begin to think of your long life as a story, it changes the way you react to the difficulties of aging.
My Dad became aware of opportunities to share how God had helped him persevere through hard times. In truth, some of the best stories are those that come near the end of a long span of life.
On Saturday, February 17, 1996 my parents and I were en-route to my cousin Jonathan Blue’s wedding at White Hill Baptist Church in Pembroke, NC. The reception was at Purnell Swett High School and we made it fine even though my Dad mentioned that he was weak and short winded. He had just turned 85 in January of this year and our family gave him a celebration in the Fellowship Hall at New Bethel Church. After Jonathan and Kellie’s wedding reception we were on our way home traveling 24 East and just before we approached Maxwell House Road on 1010 where we would have made a left. Guess what? My automobile began to slow down and we were out of gas. Thank the Good Lord for cell phones. I called my brother (Earl) and he came with his 5 gallon gas container and assisted us with enough gas so that we could make it to the next station.
While we were waiting I was very frustrated at myself for allowing this to happen. I did not gauge the gas level properly. I assumed I had enough gas to make it to the next station. Oh well. So as my very patient parents sat there waiting for my brother to come to our assistance my Dad shared a story with us as I knew he would. This is one of my favorite stories and please allow me to share it with you.
The story is about a farmer’s donkey that fell into a deep dry well. The farmer who owned the donkey had no idea how to get the donkey out. The animal cried pitifully for hours and the farmer tried to figure out what to do for his poor donkey. After much thought, he concluded the best solution would be to call some friends to help bury the donkey in the well. The well was too deep and it needed to be covered up anyway. Besides, the donkey was old, and it would be a lot of trouble to get him out of the pit. The farmer decided it was not worth trying to retrieve the animal, so he asked his neighbors to help him fill in the well and bury the donkey.
The neighboring farmers arrived with the shovels and they all began to pitch dirt into the well, on top of the donkey. The donkey immediately realized what was happening, and he began to bray horribly. Crying would be our normal response if somebody was mistreating us this badly, so this donkey was responding the same way we would at first, but then he got real quiet. The men peered down into the well and saw an amazing sight. Every time they threw a shovel of dirt into the well, the donkey simply shook it off, so it ended under his feet instead of on top of him and he took a step up. They kept shoveling trying to bury the helpless donkey and he kept shaking off the dirt! Before long, the pile of dirt with which they were trying to bury him became tall enough to raise him out of the well, and he simply stepped off of the pile onto level ground.
If the donkey had just stood there and allowed the dirt to bury him, he would not have survived. But he was determined to get out of that pit. Every time a shovel of dirt landed on him, he shook it off and climbed on top of it.
We can learn a lesson from this story. When trouble comes, if we will get still and listen, God will tell us what to do. By the grace and mercy of God I have been able to shake off a lot of things in my life. Just like the donkey, in order to keep pressing on and have victory in our lives, we are going to have to learn to shake off the troubles that come our way.
I want you to be like that donkey. Use the difficulties and obstacles you face as stepping-stones to your goals in life. When a seemingly impossible situation comes your way, do not just allow it to bury you. Be creative about overcoming it and determined to make it work for you, not against you. Turn it into your favor, even if you have to get on top of it one step at a time. Let the circumstances that could suffocate you be the very situations that strengthen you and raise you to a new level. Be a person who is willing to work with God to develop a determined, “can do” attitude; act on the truth that His power is at work within you and that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (See Philippians 4:13), no matter what stands in your way. Thanks Dad for the memories, stories and the way you impacted not only my life, the lives of your children/family and so many others. We love and miss you so much and we will see you in Heaven one day.
By faith I keep pressing on!