- August 5, 2020
Have you ever felt helpless? Yeah, me too. It’s an awful feeling. A couple of months ago I was driving down Rt. 15 going through Lewisburg and a bad accident happened right in front of me. From my vantage point sitting high up in our church van, I could see the whole thing happening. I
Have you ever felt helpless? Yeah, me too. It’s an awful feeling. A couple of months ago I was driving down Rt. 15 going through Lewisburg and a bad accident happened right in front of me. From my vantage point sitting high up in our church van, I could see the whole thing happening. I wanted to do something, but it happened so fast there wasn’t a chance. I was helpless.
Well, a couple of weeks ago, I submitted an article to the Webb Weekly as I usually do on Friday morning for the following week’s edition. I’m sure all of you are aware that what we write lags behind distribution to your mailbox by about five days. You know, a lot can change in five days, and depending on the article topic, it could literally be outdated by the time you read it or use the paper to line your kitty litter. It’s just one of the challenges that goes with writing in a weekly.
Anyway, I submitted my article and assumed it would be included in the next edition. My article and my sermon are usually connected, so I preached that Sunday using the same material I had written. As I was preaching through the sermon three times on Zoom (pandemic craziness, right?), I knew something seemed off, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. That afternoon, I was editing the video of the sermon for distribution to our church family when I finally caught the mistake, and it was a big one.
Now big to me may not be big to you, but I had inadvertently attributed to Jesus something John had said. As a minister of the gospel, one of the clear commands I live under is to correctly handle the Word of Truth. See II Timothy 2:14-16. To make such an obvious mistake while presenting three sermons and submitting an article, well, I was embarrassed beyond description. And worst of all, I had to live with knowing my mistake was going to show up in 58,000 homes three days later — and there wasn’t a stinkin’ thing I could do about it. I was helpless while watching a very slow wreck taking place.
Three days. Three awful days. Three days of knowing I was going to receive an avalanche of emails and texts and voice messages and snail mail letters from everyone who caught my obvious mistake. It kept me up at night and gnawed on me all day long. I’m not a perfectionist, but I take the Word of God very seriously and I messed up.
At one point, I was trying to cope with the failure and I said to my dear Miss Heather, “Well, out of 58,000 homes, it’s likely that only fifty people will actually read my article. And of those fifty, only ten will be focused enough to catch my mistake. And of those ten, only three will take the time to let me know about my mistake.” (You know who you are.) Seriously, at that point, I was thinking anything just to feel better about my blunder.
But D-Day came. On Wednesday after work, I walked out to my mailbox to retrieve my copy of the Weekly. Usually, I’m pretty excited to read the articles — and especially my own. That may sound cocky, but let me assure you, it is an incredible privilege to be included in the Weekly and to enjoy faith conversations with people all across our beautiful valley. I am usually very humbled by the opportunity, but on this day, I was just plain miserable.
Instead of going back in the house, I went to the front porch and sat down on a bench. I didn’t want to be around anyone when I read my mess. I paged through the Weekly and a miracle happened — my article wasn’t there! I paged through it again just to make sure I hadn’t missed it. It still wasn’t there. I let out a howl of celebration that probably had my neighbors DJ and Jerel and Bob and Big Mike wondering what on earth was going on. I ran into the house and announced the great news to Miss Heather: Her husband wouldn’t be tarred and feathered and placed in the stocks at the corner of Market and Third!
Sometimes, things just work out. The next day I submitted a corrected version of the article to Steph and thanked her for being part of a little miracle Hartzell needed. Her response, “There’s something to be said for Divine intervention.” Amen, sister!
That revised article appeared last week in the July 15 edition. And now you know the rest of the story.
When you read this article, Heather and I will be walking the beach in Ocean City, Maryland, the very same beach we walked together 35 years ago on our honeymoon. It has been the greatest privilege of my life to walk with her through these many years. I am a thankful man and blessed beyond measure. Editor Steph was right, there’s something to be said for Divine intervention — and I know that better than anyone. Happy anniversary, Heather. Come, walk with me.