Summary: Gleaning from the fields of God's grace.
The Whole Field
“In his beautiful book Rising Above the Crowd, Brian Harbour tells the story of Ben Hooper. When Ben Hooper was born many years ago in the foothills of Tennessee, little boys and girls like Ben who were born to unwed mothers were ostracized and treated terribly. By the time he was three-years-old, the other children would scarcely play with him. Parents were saying idiotic things like, ‘What’s a boy like that doing playing with our children?’ as if the child had anything at all to do with his own birth.
“Saturday was the toughest day of all. Ben’s mom would take him down to the little general store to buy their supplies for the week. Invariably, the other parents in the store would make caustic remarks just loudly enough for both mother and child to hear, comments like, ‘Did you ever figure out who his daddy is?’ What a tough, tough childhood.
“In those days there was no kindergarten. So, at age six, little Ben entered the first grade. He was given his own desk, as were all the children. At recess, he stayed at that little desk and studied because none of the other children would play with him. At noon, little Ben could be found eating his sack lunch all alone. The happy chatter of the children who shunned him was barely audible from where he sat.
“It was a big even when anything changed in the foothills of East Tennessee, and when little Ben was twelve-years-old a new preacher came to pastor the little church in Ben’s town.
“Almost immediately, little Ben started hearing exciting things about him – about how loving and nonjudgmental he was. How he accepted people just as they were, and when he was with them he made them feel like the most important people in the world. Reportedly, the preacher had charisma. When he walked into a group of any size, anywhere, the entire complexion of that group changed. Their smiles broadened, their laughter increased, and their spirits rose.
“One Sunday, though he had never been to church a day in his life, little Ben Hooper decided he was going to go and hear the preacher. He got there late and he left early because he did not want to attract any attention, but he liked what he heard. For the first time in that young boy’s life, he caught just a glimmer of hope.
“Ben was back in church the next Sunday, and the next and the next. He always got there late and always left early, but his hope was building each Sunday.
“On about the sixth or seventh Sunday the message was so moving and exciting that Ben became absolutely enthralled with it. It was almost as if there were a sign behind the preacher’s head that read, ‘For you, little Ben Hooper of unknown parentage, there is hope!’ Ben got so wrapped up in the message, he forgot about the time and didn’t notice that a number of people had come in after he had taken his seat.
“Suddenly, the services were over, Ben very quickly stood up to leave as he had in all the Sundays past, but the aisles were clogged with people and he could not run out. As he was working his way through the crowd, he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned around and looked up, right into the eyes of the young preacher who asked him a question that had been on the mind of every person there for the past twelve years: ‘Whose boy are you?’
"Instantly, the church grew deathly quiet. Slowly, a smile started to spread across the face of the young preacher until it broke into a huge grin, and he exclaimed, ‘Oh! I know whose boy you are! Why, the family resemblance is unmistakable. You are a child of God!’
“And with that the young preacher swatted him across the rear and said, ‘That’s quite a heritage you’ve got there boy! Now, go and see to it that you live up to it’” (Zig Ziglar, Stories for the Heart (Multnomah: Sisters, Oregon, 1996), 223-224).
Life can have some cruel twists and turns, and people can dash the hopes and dreams of others with just a few small words. Just like little Ben we can often find ourselves starting to believe the comments of others about us. We can get sucked into the trap of believing that what they say is true; that we are no good, and that we need to just sit down and let someone else lead. And in a sense, we begin to take the leftovers that fall from the plates of others abundance. We end up not running the race in such a way to win – as Paul said – but running just to place at all.