ompany’s coming!” yelled one of my brothers one summer day. Peering down the road we could see aunt Bess and our cousins, albert and Roberta, quickly nearing our farmhouse. excitement swept through the rooms like the handmade broom that had swept the floors hours before. anxiously, we ran to meet them as they emerged from the car.
“Give them room to walk!” dad called from the front porch, a wide grin across his face.
Following a scrumptious meal topped with molasses and biscuits, albert performed some of his renowned handstands. “More! More!” we squealed.
It wasn’t long, however, before my attention was diverted to Roberta. Just a young girl, I admired her because she could draw and paint. The whole idea fascinated me. There, in front of her, proudly displayed, was a marvelous painting she was working on.
“It’s almost finished,” she told me. I watched her intently as she carefully made her final strokes, and the end result was beautiful.
Hmm, I think I can do that, I foolishly thought.
A little while later, Roberta and the family went back into the house, but I stayed behind, still admiring her masterpiece. Ultimately, temptation got the best of me. picking up a brush, I began to dab it into the red, yellow, and blue paints. I made aimless strokes across the painting. In just a few short moments, Roberta’s painting was ruined! Horrified, I stepped back and stared at the mess I had created.
What have I done? How could I have done this to Roberta? I exclaimed to myself. In that moment of panic, all I could think about was finding a place to hide. eyeing the barn a few yards away, I headed for it as quickly as my feet would take me, and crouched beneath the prickly bales of hay. and then came the tears—uncontrollable tears. Would they ever stop?
My guilt weighed so heavily on my mind and body, it felt like I was lying under those bales of hay. Will Roberta ever forgive me? I wondered. Will my family turn against me? Will I ever be happy again? My grief was quickly turning into total despair.
Hours passed. I heard my brothers and sisters calling my name, but I dared not move. That is, until darkness fell like a cloak over the farm and the fear of the night became almost as intense as the weight of my guilt. It was then that I headed for the house to face Roberta and, of course, my consequences.
Upon entering the door, I found the family gathered in the living room trying to surmise where I could have gone, my mother fidgeting with her apron and wiping her brow. For a few glorious moments, after they noticed me at the door, I was hugged and pampered and given full attention, but the glory was short-lived. My deserved punishment would be forthcoming, I was told.
I could not look at Roberta, but I repeatedly apologized and begged her forgiveness. She took me by the hand and said, “I want to show you something.” Trembling from head to foot, I soon found myself standing directly in front of her painting, not believing my eyes. Miraculously, with meticulous strokes of her brushes, she had deleted all of my blunders and restored her painting.
It was a moment of joy I will never forget! More importantly, as if she had wrapped a comfort blanket around my shoulders, I’ll always remember the compassionate look on Roberta’s face which spoke loud and clear, “I forgive you.”
My mourning station in the barn was just that—a place to cry and grieve over my guilt. But there is a place under the wingspan of God where we can mourn and be comforted. It is a place where we grieve for the needs of others or for our own guilt, and where the Comforter assures us that He is with us. Roberta showed me that place a long time ago.
Joyce Noel Wyatt lives in Kodak, Tennessee. For many years, she served as a houseparent at the Church of God Home for Children in Sevierville. Joycewyatt3149@comcast.net