This excerpt from Steal Away Home is about the unusual friendship between two preachers in the 1800s. One was brought up as a slave and the other as a privileged Englishman, yet they both longed for real freedom. This excerpt deals with the English preacher as a boy.)
A few years ago, there was a rather intense thunderstorm, the kind that shakes walls and rattles rib cages. For hours, hard rain hammered the parsonage roof, and it felt as though all of hell’s fury was ramming against every wall of his grandfather’s humble abode. The deathly black night camouflaged the intensity of the clouds, and without the occasional blast of lightning flashing through the windows and all the cracks in the walls, Charles couldn’t see his hand when he pulled it to his nose. He lay alone in his bed, terrified of the kind of darkness he dreaded most. All at once, a torrent of pure evil and fear piled upon his chest like an iron mountain. It weighed so hard, he could barely breathe. The familiar, terrible darkness whispered in his ear, just loud enough to be heard over the booming thunder.
“Charles. Charles. You’re mine.”
Charles clenched his eyelids together and dug his fingers into the soft sheets. He waited for the storm to blow down the house, and for the darkness to swallow him whole.
Then suddenly, from somewhere within the house, he heard his grandfather shouting, “Charles, come here! Quickly, grandson!” The urgency in his voice startled Charles, and without delay he jumped from his bed and ran into the main hallway of the house. Lightning flashed thin lines of bright silver through the joints connecting the walls to the ceiling and doorframe. Placing his hands under Charles’s chin, his grandfather lifted the boy’s terrified eyes to his own, and reassured him, “It’s alright, Charles. The storm is powerful, but I want you to see something extraordinary.”
He turned his grandson’s head towards the open door of the washroom, just adjacent to the kitchen and study. There, Charles instantly noticed the washtub, full to the brim with rainwater that had poured off the roof, and was now running along the top of the doorframe and spilling down the walls like a waterfall. In confusion and panic, Charles thought surely his grandfather must be angry about the condition of the leaky parsonage, as it was an old house that leaked often.
“Charles, quickly. Cup your hands like this,” he said while gathering his hands and forming a goblet of skin. Charles mimicked the shape of his grandfather’s hands, prompting a warm and confused smile on his face. Walking towards the ceramic washtub, he beckoned Charles to follow, and then they both knelt in front of the washtub. Lightning flashed like fireworks as thunder cocked its gun and prepared to pull the trigger again. The wooden floors rumbled beneath their knees as his grandfather gently pushed his cupped hands into the water. His hands filled with water and he slowly carried it to his mouth, closed his eyes, and drank every drop. He licked his lips and wiped water from his grey beard before turning to Charles, who was still quite perplexed by the scene.
“My boy!” his grandfather shouted, having to yell over the terrible volume of the storm. “There is no sweeter tasting water than that which falls straight from Heaven!” He thrust his hands in again and again, each time savoring and smiling. Timidly, Charles followed. He tightened his fingers, plunged his hands into the water, and slowly brought it to his lips. It was the sweetest and brightest water he had ever tasted, crisp and airy like sunshine, earthy like freshly clipped field grass. With each swallow, he imagined tiny rain droplets making their way from Heaven’s river and falling through feathered clouds before they gathered into his boyish hands. They drank happily, as Charles’s heart slowly melted into childlike glee.
“What bliss to taste the sweetness of God, even as it pours through the fiercest of thunderstorms!” said his grandfather confidently, over another crackle of thunder. Charles drank from the overflow of Heaven until his belly was round and full. While the lightning continued to scream and his bones rattled and clanked from the thunder, the taste of Heaven’s sweet rainwater overshadowed and muted the thunderstorm. He would never again taste or smell the sweetness of rain without thinking of his grandfather, and of Heaven.
James Spurgeon, his grandfather, was a venerable man — sturdy as an ox, gentle as a breeze, yet unrivaled in his conviction and love for the Holy Scriptures. For more than fifty years, he fathered numerous children, literally and spiritually, and the good people of Stambourne gloried in the goodness of God they saw in their pastor and friend. In his early days, he was a dissenting teacher, removed from the Church of England because of his nonconformist views. Now he was simply the “Pastor of the Flock” and the proud grandfather of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He had never been happier.
Excerpted from Steal Away Home by Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey. For more information about this book or to order a copy, go to www.lifeway.com