By Bradford C. Newton
This was the perfect Home, and they knew it at first sight. Every Child could have a room. The kitchen was a gourmet cook’s dream. The floorplan offered endless entertaining options. There was a den for him and sunroom for her. This smart Home had Wi-Fi-connected tech throughout. The large lot meant plenty of room for green grass, flower beds, and trees with ample shade over the gazebo—inviting them to hope for year-round outdoor living in abundant fresh air and sunshine. The previous owners had spared no expense to upgrade everything inside and out. The asking price was at market value. Was it too good to be true? They reread the listing. There was no mistake.
They had saved more than enough money for the down payment. The loan preapproval had sailed through without a hitch. Their dream Home was within sight. They had worked so long and gone without the essentials that others took for granted. With hope they signed the offer agreement and waited. Soon after, the realtor called with good news—offer accepted! The promise of a Home was becoming a reality.
The weeks went by as the customary details that all homebuyers endure were attended to. However, for them there was more anguish in the waiting. The memories of other Home offers haunted them. The paperwork and financing had always been correct, offers had been accepted, but then there were last-minute rejections. Each time their hopes had been raised, only to be shattered. But for this Family, the dream of having that Home never died. In times of bitter discouragement, Dad and Mom would talk with their Parents, who reminded them of other homebuyers who had come before them—of their own dream of a promised Home. But that was then. What joy to anticipate that they would soon occupy their Home of Dreams-Come-True!
At family dinner, Dad and Mom talked about the future with the Children. What opportunities awaited them! They imagined birthday parties, covered-dish socials, and church Bible study groups under the backyard gazebo. They saw themselves returning from a long day of work and school to this neighborhood where kindness, safety, peace, and justice existed for them, just like it did for all their neighbors. It would at last feel that their lives mattered.
With excitement, the Family drove to view the Home that would soon be theirs. Dappled light and shadow filtered through the trees lining the street. This would be their view every day as Owners of the American Dream. Soaking in the beauty of the Home of Promise, they remembered that a way had been prepared before them.
Out of the corner of his eye, Dad saw their realtor walk deliberately up to the driver’s side. His chest tightened and hands gripped the steering wheel unconsciously. He dutifully rolled down the window. With a somber face, their representative stood there. “I have some bad news.” The words were delivered with a flat tone. “The deal fell through.” What did that mean? They had the money, jobs, and credit, and the paperwork had been completed to the exact letter of the law. “Sorry, but these things just happen.” But why? To whom do these things just happen? Again, being denied, we must hear the reason why! “Well, don’t blame me.” The words came haltingly. “I’m just one person and what could I have done? It’s just the system.” And with that, they were left alone while the realtor’s car drove quickly away.
The burning anger and grief of yet another denial could not be quenched by their hot tears. Yet by the time they came back to where they had started that morning, the Family returned indoors with dignity and renewed determination. At dinner they joined hands in prayer. Son heard Dad’s reciting of the Lord’s Prayer, noting the intensity added to “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Later, the Family assembled before their television to witness a funeral service. Sad people dressed in black spoke about the great man. Mom’s eyes welled with tears as witnesses recalled the life of the man pictured next to the casket. “Who was he?” Daughter asked. Dad’s voice broke with emotion recounting how the great man had bravely walked across a bridge, that he had crumpled to the ground as lesser men beat him mercilessly. Through her tears, Mom recalled the great man’s oratory on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial when he was young. Their eyes brightened with pride remembering how the great man, by then grown older, had led a sit-in on the carpeted floor of the United States Congress. Now the military honor guard carried the great man’s flag-draped casket down the aisle and into a bright day.
Another week of dashed hopes and crushing grief ended. As the sun set that Friday, Dad reverently lifted his Bible from the nightstand. Its black leather was worn and cracked from long and anguished nights in prayer. His fingers gently leafed through the familiar thin pages to words underlined in red pen many years ago. For the briefest moment he remembered his Church and sighed. With weary eyes he read familiar Scriptures whose meaning remained inexplicably elusive for so many.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.… Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:6, 9).1
“Whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17).
“All the nations will be gathered before Him and He will separate them one from another.… Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me…for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.…Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me’” (Matthew 25:32, 41-43, 45).
“He who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20).
“I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Revelation 22:12).
Dad pictured the great man’s funeral earlier that day and called to mind his final written words:
“Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.
“When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So, I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.”2
Dad gently returned the Bible to the nightstand, kissed his sleeping Wife, and promptly extinguished the light. With mind racing, he stared intently into the darkness enveloping them and cried out to God. At last sleep overtook him. All was silent now except for the persistent ticking of a clock in the next room.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7).
1All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version.
2John Lewis, “Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation,” New York Times (July 17, 2020).
Bradford Newton is the secretary and the ministerial director of the Pacific Union Conference.