January 30, 2012
Beating Out the Fire
In the winter of 1963, my grandparents moved from Winston, MS to Starkville, MS. My Grandpa Paul, who had never been a pastor of a church before, was now the assistant pastor to a new church. The lead pastor Carol and my grandpa were building a new church. They had cleared the land and built one room of the church house. Now they were working to increase the membership of the new church and finish building the rest of the church. My grandparents lived in a 2 bedroom and one bath small 10ft x 32ft trailer behind the church. They had two young children and one on the way.
Grandpa Paul was tongue-tied. This caused him many problems with public speaking. However, he was able to compensate for this. He had an interesting way of making a point. Many times people had to wait until he finished speaking before they understood what he was trying to say because he would start with the most interesting statement. Normally it was also the most unusually statement. This useful strategy caused many people to stop and listen to him.
My grandpa Marcus and Pastor Carol would take turns giving the sermons. Pastor Carol never knew what my grandpa would preach on, but he trusted him. One very memorable Sunday, my grandpa was to give the sermon. After the praise and worship was over, Grandpa Marcus quietly walked to the pulpit and calmly asked the congregation a very disturbing question. Without any major emotion in his voice he asked, “Is it wrong to beat the fire out of your wife?” Everyone in the congregation gasped at such a ridiculous question. Everybody knew that beating their wife was wrong and you most certainly did not ask that question at a small church in a small town. Remember this is the 60’s and you simply did not speak of things like this. Lead Pastor Carol looked at Grandpa Marcus with a questioning look in his eye. Then my grandpa further shocked everyone in that small church house. Grandpa Marcus said, “The other night I beat the fire out of my wife and I did right.” Now everyone was looking around wondering why he had been selected to be assistant pastor. Not only was he tongue-tied, he was a wife beater. They also wondered how he could even think it was a good idea to beat his pregnant wife. Pastor Carol started to get up and take the pulpit away from Grandpa Paul, but grandpa said, “Let me finish explaining.” Pastor Carol requested that the congregation let Grandpa finish. After a few minutes, everyone got quiet and sat back down. Grandpa Marcus started to explain. The only reason Pastor Carol allowed Grandpa Marcus to continue is he personally knew that Marcus had an unusual way of making a very good point. Unfortunately, he was baffled as to how anyone could stand there, confess to beating their wife, and firmly believe that he was doing what God wanted him to do.
Grandpa Marcus continued by saying, “It is not what you do but why you do it. I had a very good reason for beating my wife the other night. By beating her, I saved her life.” Now everyone in the church was scratching their heads and asking each other how beating someone can save their life. Grandpa Marcus continued, “It has been cold lately. We put a space heater in the bathroom. My wife went to the bathroom to get ready for bed. While in the bathroom, her gown caught on fire. She screamed for help. I ran in and grabbed a towel. I then grabbed her arm and commenced to beating her with the towel. After putting out the fire that had engulfed her nightgown, I made sure she was not injured. Then I calmed her down and helped her finish getting ready for bed. After getting her to bed, I reassured the children that all was alright. I then reminded the children to be extra careful around the space heater.”
She is here today because I beat the fire out of her literally. Therefore it is not what you do, but why you do it.” After church, many people asked my grandma, if this was true. She answered that it was and explained how scared she had been. Many members of the congregation later expressed regret for their first reaction. If Pastor Carol had not requested that Grandpa Marcus be allowed to explain, the congregation would have thrown, my grandpa out of the church.
My grandpa has told this story at many other churches. Those congregations likewise had the same first impression. They also later expressed regret for jumping to conclusions. Since my grandpa told me the story, he has past away; however, he lives on through his words and actions. I am sure that no one who was there that day and is still living has forgotten my grandpa’s words. When I am baffled by what someone has done, I remember the words of my grandpa. I also remember an old Proverb that says a wise man listens to the end of the matter, but a foolish man speaks quickly. My grandpa took that proverb to heart. Because of the lessons that my grandpa taught me, I try to listen completely before I judge anyone. It is possible that their actions were based on love or good intentions. I wonder how many times people hear part of a story and jump to the wrong conclusion. I hope that more people could learn to listen to the whole matter before jumping to conclusions. My grandpa Marcus spent his life trying to teach people to listen to the whole story instead of simple jumping to a conclusion.
Beating Out the Fire