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Was Dark as Coal, Now White as Snow
By Jerry D. Lane

Going to Granny Helen’s house when I was a boy brought shrills of excitement from my brother and me. She lived quite a distance away and we only visited a few times during the year. I remember those times so vividly that I can close my eyes and imagine the fun we had. To this day, Granny Helen goes outside or gets down on the floor to play games with her great grandchildren; though not as often as before.

When I was a kid, she’d help us strategically set up grand battles with little green plastic army men. I don’t remember how we knew which men belonged to what army, but she helped us keep track. She taught us games like "Pick up Sticks®," Dominoes® and others which have become unknown games to most kids today. We consulted her on building plans and construction of Lincoln Log® homes as well.

More than waging war between armies of no distinction and building log houses, with which we became bored before we were finished, I’d say it was the way she read to us that made spending time with Granny Helen the best. Somehow she could generate peace, keep us still and serene, and hold us captivated throughout the entire unfolding story.

A few weeks ago, I thought of one book she would read called Two Little Miners*, a Little Golden Book, published in 1943. It is, now famous as Richard Scarry’s first illustrated book, and Granny Helen still has it. When I asked to borrow it during a family gathering, the entire family threatened my life as if the book was an heirloom as well as a collectible.

On the road going home that day, my brother’s fiancé read the book out loud. I still remembered what would happen next as she was reading. It wasn’t her voice I heard though; it was Granny Helen’s. The way Granny Helen inflected her voice and generated sound effects jumped out of those stored memories upon each turned page.

Something I didn’t remember was the "moral" or spiritual application that could be drawn from those pages. The story tells of two miners who would come home almost pitch black from the coal they had been mining all day. Dirt covered them from head to toe – the elder miner actually had white hair but it turned ebony from the coal dust. The miners bathed and scrubbed vigorously, until they were once again clean just in time for dinner.

The next morning, the two awoke and went off to work as usual in the mine. Their clothes were spotless. As they descended the mineshaft in a bucket, it grew darker and darker until it was pitch black. Only the lamps in their hard hats made anything visible. Without those, they couldn’t have seen anything. Once again, at the end of the day, they emerged pitch black, filthy as the day before.

As the story was read on our trip home from Granny Helen’s, I began to see the similarity between those miners and myself.

Almost five years ago, I began experiencing the repercussions of walking down a wide, sinful path. I lost what I thought was everything. The pure white life that God intended for me was covered with the soot of sinful choices I had made and I found myself in the abyss of a coalmine.

After being hospitalized for a time, months of counseling, lots of prayer and a miracle of the Lord, I began to see the grace and love of God in my life.

Throughout that time, the snow-white path of blessings God had for me came into clear view. My spiritual, mental and physical life became clean again. I sensed the Lord’s nearness and His friendship like no other time in my life. It was like starting over and the joy of my salvation fanned the flames as the fire in my soul burned brightly again.

I spent time with God, as I’d never done before. I was burdened and spent time on my knees in intercessory prayer for others as the Lord led me. It was obvious that God was answering those prayers in a supernatural way.

Instead of praising God for the great things He was doing, I became arrogant.

Once again, I walked down that old, wide and sinful path. I went back into the bucket that carried me down, down, down into the dim mine. I had let my guard down and not leaned on God to keep me from getting dirty again.

Before long, I had to miss some work again, eventually resigning. I became completely dependent on others and literally erased all the progress I had made. That wasn’t easy to swallow.

For some reason, I fixated on being back in the same physical, mental, financial and spiritual place I was four years earlier. I was angry. I was sure God must be tired of looking at the coal-coated me, because I sure was.

It was listening to this book again…this Little Golden Book…that urged me to see things in a better light. Those miners spent so much time cleaning up after work that you’d think they wouldn’t want to get dirty again, but they did. They were filthy again the very next day and had to start over.

At times I still feel like those miners. I get all cleaned up, things are going well, and then I’ll mess things up again. The consequences that follow could lead me into despair, but I focus on the fact that I can get all cleaned up again.

I don’t comprehend Christ’s grace at those times, which is probably why we call it amazing. His grace forever washes us of our dirt, our sin. We are no longer compelled to get dirty, but when we do, His blood has already paid for our sin and has cleansed us.

We can start over through His grace.

Another phrase that could be used instead of "starting over" is a new beginning, a brand new day and a clean slate. Unfortunately, I’d better return the book I borrowed or I won’t have a clean slate with my family.

*Two Little Miners, a Little Golden Book, copyright, 1949 by Simon and Schuster, Inc., and Artists and Writers Guild, Inc., Rockefeller Center, New York, 20, New York.

© 2004, Jerry D Lane, All Rights Reserved.

Jerry Lane lived half his life in "the heart of Texas" as they say, and the other half in Southwest Missouri, also known as the Ozarks. He is currently studying for his master’s in clinical counseling and is a mortgage banker for the largest home loan originator in the US. Jerry began writing about a year ago and it is his passion and desire to write and to grow as a writer. Jerry admits that he has had some rough times over the past four years, but writing has seemed to evoke healing. His hope is to reflect the Lord to others with stories like this one.
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