Five years ago the LA Times reported on a man from Medford, Oregon.
“Old Man Howard spent decades chasing children off his farm, shotgun in hand, watching little legs spin like windmills into the distance. Generations considered him the meanest man in Jackson County. To others, Wesley Howard was simply an oddity: a loner who never married, never left Oregon, and lived his whole life in the same place he was born, a century-old farmhouse without phones or toilets. Children saw it as a haunted house; passersby photographed it as an artifact.
The house was built in 1890 and had not been painted in a half-century. From the road, the house looked, as one neighbor said, ‘ready to fall.’
Howard lived in the house by himself. Both floors were stacked ceiling-high with newspapers and magazines dating to the early 1900s. Upstairs bedrooms were equally cramped, filled with some of Howard’s boyhood toys. Howard cooked on a potbellied wood stove. He drank water from a hand-dug well, and he used an outhouse.
In March, at age 87, he died of a stroke, enigmatic to the end. Howard, it turns out, was rich. Few knew. He bequeathed his entire estate, worth more than $11 million, to create a youth sports park on his 68-acre farm.
The surprise gift has cast Howard in a new light, causing residents to question whether they really knew him.
An editorial in the Medford Mail Tribune opened with this line: ‘We’ll never know if Wes Howard had a Scrooge-like epiphany or if there was always a charitable soul hidden beneath his gruff exterior.’
Gene Glazier, who lived across from the Howard farm for five decades and whose children were chased off the property said he was ‘blown over’ by Howard’s last act. ‘We had no idea.'”
WE HAD NO IDEA.
Nothing in Old Man Howard’s life even remotely suggested he had more than a couple of dimes to rub together. It looked like he had nothing. His value, his worth, according to the people around him, was zero. People were shocked to learn he was worth over $11 million. There was a huge difference between appearances as his community understood them and realities as they genuinely were. Old Man Howard’s life was hidden in a 110-year-old house.
Our lives are hidden in Christ.
As disciples of Jesus, there is also a huge discrepancy between appearances and reality. Our glorious future, our destiny to reign forever with Jesus at the right hand of God, our status as joint-heirs with the Son of the Almighty God is hidden. Those in the world view us as weak and insignificant. They see us as dishonored fools for Jesus, not understanding that we are intimately connected to the creator and ruler of the universe.
It’s comforting to us and empowering for us to understand that this ultimate reality isn’t tied to anything we do. Our holiness doesn’t come from our futile attempts to comply with a long list of do’s and don’ts. Our destiny doesn’t depend on our ability to not sin. Our riches are not tied to our good behavior. It all comes from being in Christ, dying with Christ, being buried with Christ, being raised with Christ, and living this hidden life with Christ. It’s because of Christ. He hides our life. He protects it. He keeps it. He saves it. And he promises us that when he appears again in glory we are also going to appear with him in that same glory.
And our neighbors and our world will say, “We had no idea.”
Play “Taps” for Texas. The Angels beat the Yankees. The Rangers lost to Seattle. And it’s finally officially over. L.A.’s team in Anaheim clinches the AL West. See former Ranger Mark Teixeira celebrating in the Angels’ clubhouse. It’d be interesting to note how many former Rangers’ players are in the postseason this year. There’s a mess of ’em. Sounds like a great project for Kipi. As long as she doesn’t undertake the effort all alone in a dark room on a rainy day. We’d better keep an eye on her.