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The Man of His Counsel | Effie M. Williams

Joe Unloads

Although the advice given by Preacher Brumbaugh was not what Joe had desired, it proved to be very helpful to him many times, for the admonition to go home and act like a man and not be a baby rang in his ears, and many times, when about to give vent to his temper, this would come before him and he would say within himself, “I will be a man.” And many times, too, when thinking of the occasion of his outburst when he threw the hammer away and the story Alfred told him, he would try to comfort himself with the thought that if such tragedy had ever befallen him he, too, would have learned to control himself. But all his reasoning could not lift the load from off his heart, nor bring the peace in his soul for which he longed.

Often when alone and thinking about his condition, Joe would groan aloud. How he longed to tell Susie, but it seemed something held him back. He felt too proud to acknowledge himself a sinner after having been a member of the church for so long, classed as a good member by his pastor, and pointed out by many as the model man of the community. Much as he tried to control himself, there were times when Joe found that he was not master of himself, and this would only make the load heavier. Poor Joe, he had not learned the secret of unloading.

As Alfred and Tillie lived in the country, far from any church except the one of which Joe and Susie were members, they did not have the church privileges they desired, so Alfred went to several of the neighbors and began to inquire about having some prayer meetings. He found a hearty response from many of the neighbors. So, after ordering a number of songbooks, they began having their weekly meetings. As Alfred was the one who first mentioned such meetings in the neghborhood, he was appointed leader of the prayer-band, and as each week advanced he sought the Lord earnestly that he might read the right scripture and give comments on it that would feed the souls of those who attended. For a few weeks there were only a few who attended the meetings, but as reports went over the neighborhood of the enjoyable times spent together, more began to attend until, in many of the homes where the prayer~band met, furniture was carried out of the house to make room to accommodate the people. Alfred and Tillie gave good reports of their meetings. They always invited Joe and Susie to go with them. Although the invitations were received courteously, there was always an excuse made for their remaining at home. But when the prayer-band was to meet at the home of Alfred and Tillie, they could not be so discourteous as to refuse to attend, for the meeting was under their own roof.

At an early hour the crowd began to arrive. Some came in buggies, some in wagons, and some on horseback, while others living near came on foot. Joe could scarcely believe his eyes as he saw each room filled and still more coming. There was nothing left to do but to open his own doors that the crowd might be accommodated. This he did, and the crowd filled all the rooms. At the beginning of the singing Susie slipped from the room unnoticed and returned wearing her little white cap. The first song ended with Joe and Susie as listeners, but both joined in the second song, Susie with her clear soprano voice, and Joe in his rich, deep bass. The more they sang the better they enjoyed it. The song service had not ended before Joe decided that, if this were the kind of meetings his neighbors were having, he would not miss another one.

A number of songs were sung and then Alfred arose and, opening his Bible, began to read the scripture lesson for the evening. He read the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, pausing many times to comment on the parables which are given there. He dwelt especially on the five foolish virgins, and the man who buried his talent. Joe sat spellbound as he listened to his hired hand expounding the scripture. The Holy Spirit was using an entrusted talent and Alfred was putting it out to the exchangers that it might be doubled. The words which he spoke were having their effect on his hearers.

After the scripture lesson Alfred then said, “We will now have a season of prayer. After Brother Holmier leads us in a few words of prayer, I shall ask for a few volunteer prayers. Let us all bow while Brother Holmier leads us in prayer.” Joe looked from room to room and saw all kneeling, waiting for him to lead them in prayer. At first he felt that he would just quietly withdraw from the room, but on second thought knew that would not do, for the whole community regarded him as a Christian man, a real model. Such an act would never do for him. So he knelt with the rest, thinking he would say only a few words. But his tongue seemed to cleave to the roof of his mouth. There was profound silence for some time, and Joe felt the beating of his heart shaking his whole frame. He must do something, but he could not think of one word. It seemed he was kneeling for an hour and that all eyes were turned upon him, but such was not the case. All were in a worshipful attitude before the Lord and the time had been but a few seconds. At last Joe collected himself sufficiently to repeat the prayer that the Lord had taught His disciples to pray and was surprised at the close of the prayer to hear Alfred’s “Amen.” A number of others prayed and then Alfred led in prayer with such fervor and earnestness that Joe felt a tightening in his chest and found it difficult to breathe.

When the prayer service was over, another song was sung, but Joe did not join in the singing. He felt little. He was sure that all there knew now that he was not the man that he had been posing to be for so many years. If the floor had opened and received him out of the sight of all, it would have been a welcomed event to him. How miserable he felt.

But there was still more in the meeting to drive home the truth his soul needed. The service was turned into a praise-meeting and all were given the opportunity to tell what the Lord had done for them. The testimonies differed according to the respective persons. Some rose with a real praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for deliverance and for real victory, finding real pleasure in the service of the Lord and encouraged to go on in the way. Others testified to a hard time with their ups and downs, but asked the prayers of all that they might not give up but continue faithful to the end. Joe’s testimony was even more brief than his prayer, but as all were having some word of praise, he, too, felt that he must say something. So he said in a shaky voice, “I thank God for this meeting, for I feel that it has done me good.” Alfred’s testimony was full of praise to his God for complete and constant victory. As Joe was thrown into Alfred’s company daily he knew that Alfred was not testifying any higher than he lived, for his life was one above reproach. How Joe coveted a like experience, but he was too proud to acknowledge his lack. The meeting was truly helpful to Joe, but it took something more to break his stubborn will and bring him to the place where he would seek for that which his soul was longing.

Among the work animals that Joe had was an old mare he called “Balky Fan.” She received this name because she often balked and no one could get her to move. She was a good work animal until she took a notion to work no more and then her work for that time was done. Joe had often made the remark to his wife after Alfred had shown such an even temper when he struck his thumb with the hammer that he would like to see what Alfred would do some time if old Balky Fan should take a spell with him, as she had heretofore when Joe was trying to work her. Joe had tried everything that anyone had told him to do to break her from balking, but all to no avail. He could never deal with her without losing control of himself, and Fan would get a hard beating. Yet this did no good. Joe really desired to see just what Alfred would do should she take such a spell with him. But when Alfred was working her Fan always behaved herself well. The next day after the prayer meeting Joe told Alfred to hitch up old Fan with another one of his horses and haul some blocks up from the woods, for he wanted his winter’s wood all ready before the cold weather set in. Alfred had hauled two loads and old Fan had behaved well, but just as he came into the lot with the third load, in trying to back the team old Fan refused to move. Alfred slapped her with the lines but she only stood stock still and did not move except to shake her head and bite on the bit. Alfred then got down off the wagon and walked around intending to pat her on the neck and try a little coaxing, but when he touched her she reared up and threw her fore feet across the back of the other horse, which made the situation all the more puzzling. Joe stood witnessing the situation and at this time came up to where Alfred was standing and said, “Now, what are you going to do about it?”

“There is but one thing to do, as I see,” replied Alfred, “and that is to get the other horse out of there for she may injure him if we do not, and if you will loosen those traces I will unbuckle the neck-yoke and we will get him away from her and then perhaps we can do something with old Fan.” And Alfred began to unbuckle the harness.

“Now is when I feel that she ought to be knocked in the head,” said Joe as he gave her a kick in her side.

“That would do no good,” replied Alfred, “for the horse is probably not to blame. She may have been ruined in breaking. The man who broke her for the harness is perhaps responsible for all this. Few dumb animals would take such balky spells had they been handled right in the breaking.”

“That may all be true,” replied Joe, “but that does not help us now. I just can’t help but want to knock out her brains when she takes these crazy spells.”

Alfred coaxed and petted, but Fan would not get up. All the time that he was working with her Joe noted the evenness of his tone as he spoke to her and saw that he was not the least bit angry. After each trial he wondered what Alfred would do next. At last when it seemed that all means were exhausted Alfred sat down on the wagon tongue and buried his face in his hands as if in deep thought for some time and then raising his face he looked Joe in the face and said, “Joe, we can’t make old Fan get up, but there is One who can. I do not know what to do, but He does, and that One is the Lord. He has promised me to be a present help and I need His help now.” Walking to Fan’s head, he took hold of the bridle rein and said, “Come on, old girl.” And as he lifted on the bridle rein, the old mare got up, much to Joe’s surprise, as docile and meek as if nothing had ever happened. Alfred stood, patting her neck, and the old mare turned her head and began rubbing her nose on Alfred’s shoulder. He then hitched the other horse to the wagon and came on into the lot with his load of wood. All the balk was gone from old Fan. Alfred worked old Fan all the rest of the day. That evening, after he had finished feeding the stock, he went to the house, leaving Joe standing in the open doorway of the barn, where he stood for some time in deep meditation. He gazed far over his well-kept fields, looking at the fruits of his summer’s labor. He had labored hard, early and late, but it had not brought satisfaction for which his soul longed. At last he turned his eyes toward the house. There he saw a little curly head in the window and the wave of a little hand. This seemed to bring him to himself and as he closed the barn door he said, “I’ll tell her all about it,” and at this started for the house.

He found Susie busying herself with the evening’s weal. Walking up to her, and laying his arm about her shoulder, he said, “Susie, there is something that I want to tell you, and I want to tell it to you now.”

Susie looked up into his face with a very questioning expression in her eyes. She had never heard Joe speak to her in any such manner. When she saw the earnestness in his face she said, “All right. I am sure that I shall listen to you. What is it?”

“I hardly know what to say or how to say it, but I must tell you. I have been carrying such a load around for some time and have been too proud to come and tell you what I really should have told you long ago. I am a miserable man, and I want you to help me. I have belonged to the church for a number of years, but I am no Christian. I am not right with God and not fit to enter heaven. I know you are a good woman, and I have not treated you right, hut I mean to be a better man. I can’t pray, but I know you can pray for me. I want to get to God, but just how to do it I do not know. I want you to help me and pray for me.”

“Oh, Joe,” exclaimed Susie, “I know you are as good as I am and I do not feel able to pray for myself.”

“No, I am not as good as you are,” hastily replied Joe, “for you know the many times that I have been so angry and said such ugly things to you, and then have been so pouty. You have always been so good to me in times like that and have never spoken cross or angry words to me. I know you are much better than I am, and I want you to help me.”

“Oh, Joe,” said Susie, as she began sobbing on his shoulder, “do not talk to me like that, for you have so much more patience with the children than I have, that I know you are as good as I am, and I think much better.”

“Well, this thing I know,” said Joe in a positive tone of voice, “I am no Christian and I am unloading my profession as such, and shall never lay claim to it again until I know that I am right with God and fit to enter heaven. I want to be able to pray and to live right every day, and I want you to help me.”

Susie placed her arms about his neck and as she kissed his cheek said, “I will help you all I can.”