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Someone Had to Pay

Several weeks ago, my grandfather, Arthur Lawson, passed away. He died at 93. His passing caused me to pause for a few moments and reflect on his unique contributions to our family’s story.

He tinkered. He tinkered with everything. First it was cassettes, then CDs. He made his own collections of music, because he could make it better – he knew better than those silly music producers. There were countless collections of newspaper comics, Betty-Boop figurines, and pictures of what he would call, “cute things to make you chuckle.” His spaces were filled with shelves and homemade storage, and every counter and table ledge was accompanied by some contraption that Pawpaw believed would make life easier. Better.

He was always convinced there was a better way. And, he knew his tinkering was the secret to that better way. So, for instance, if you were to re-break a tooth that was first cracked in childhood – who needs a dentist? Tinkering would surely provide a better way. So, Pawpaw tried to glue his own broken tooth back in place. After all, if he could just tinker with it, it would be better.

He had work benches and sheds filled with homemade remedies to almost any homebrewed ailment. His thoughts were populated with old wives’ tales about tonic on the head, an aspirin for this, a bit chocolate for that. There was always a better way.

He loved to tinker. After all, his involvement in something would surely make it better.

In the end, he was right. All our lives are better because of Arthur Lawson’s involvement. His life was marked by silliness, selflessness, and forgiveness.

Pawpaw was a man of great humor – even last Friday afternoon, as I was saying goodbye. He was in almost constant pain, but as they were increasing his medicine to bring him comfort, he woke up. He looked me directly in the eyes, smiled and said, “Well, how are you doing?” And, while distracting my gaze, he proceeded to aggressively poke me in the stomach. I’m not sure if he was just being silly, or if he was suggesting I might need to eat a few more salads. Either answer would just be Pawpaw being Pawpaw.

Our memories are filled with family Easter egg hunts where he would hide eggs under his suspenders and on top of his head. We have memories of a man who hid Little Debbie donuts around the house and then fought his granddaughter for the first one in the pack.

In some ways, it was his silly language that brought us all comfort. He was always “fine as a frog’s hair.” If there something he didn’t understand it was “clear as mud,” and as we left the house he constantly reminded us to “not take any wooden nickels.” His silly language reminded us that we were his.

Grandpa was silly because he had much joy. It is the mark of a man who had been redeemed by Jesus – he was filled with a joy unspeakable. It filled our family gatherings and infected our Christmas celebrations. He was joyful and hospitable. He danced around as he distributed gifts and no one ever needed to call before coming over – the side door was never locked. There was always a meal waiting and a seat at the table.

There was something different about his giggle. It was both deep and peaceful. If he was really laughing hard he would pull his legs toward his chest and cease to make any noise. It was a silent chuckle. He would lose himself in the joy of the moment. He laughed with us. He laughed at us. And, he made us all laugh. But in the end, he was a man full of joy and a man who found contentment in simple things. Coloring books, children’s stickers, pictures of cute babies, and endless searches for hidden eggs and Little Debbie donuts. A life full of family, faith, and silliness.

Pawpaw always had time for us. Whether it was chasing a little great granddaughter around the backyard as she played grocery store on her tricycle, or simply completing a coloring sheet, Pawpaw always had time. Or maybe it was teaching his Doodle Bug how to play poker at the age of 5…he always had time. Our family’s story is marked by much time together – including many trips to the mountains and Outer Banks. They were car rides filled with his insistence that it just wasn’t possible that we had to go potty again already!

Can I be honest for a moment? I don’t have a memory of my childhood that wasn’t at Art and Dorothy’s house. When my parents divorced, it was grandpa who woke us up every morning by ripping open the curtains and singing “Rise and Shine Sleepy Heads.” And then, as he would drop us off for school in his huge Chevrolet truck, he would wait until we were just in front of the truck and our friends and would blow that booming horn (resulting in a silent chuckle, again).

I learned to love baseball and tolerate NASCAR lying on the floor of his living room. And, he knew his time with us was important. When asked about his early retirement, I remember his simple reply: “There is no more important work than these two boys.”

Whether you were working in his shop or he was teaching you to fish – he was never in a hurry. Or maybe, what you needed, was time to find your footing. No rush from him. If you were in a season where you needed a place to call home, no worries, he had a bed for you and he always had time to hear your story. No matter our struggles, he always believed the best for us was yet to come.

 

In the end, my grandfather would give his bride credit for sharing Jesus with him. You can’t tell the story of Arthur without Dorothy. They were married for 62 years. It was grandma who gently read the 23rd Psalm to him by his bedside and assured him it was okay to go home. After all, as she reminded him, someone had to go ahead and secure their home for eternity where they would meet again. She told him to go and gather their beloved dogs and wait with a glass of sweet tea until she gets there. And, for once, he listened.

His legacy isn’t loud and public. He wasn’t a titan of industry or a great civic leader. He was a relatively private man who never pushed himself into the spotlight. His legacy isn’t loud, it isn’t public. It’s actually better than that – it’s lasting. His legacy is that we all believe in Jesus. Arthur Lawson’s entire family tree is given life by the blood of Jesus.

Grandpa was a man of abiding, yet very simple faith. Just give him Jesus. Grandpa is the only person I have ever known who prayed in King James’ English. I spent a lot of my childhood trying to figure out what “We beseech thee, Oh Lord” meant.

Some of our paths have been longer than others, but all ended at the feet of Jesus. That’s his legacy.

  

Pawpaw’s life wasn’t easy. A child of the depression and a World War, he was forced to drop out of school when he was 8 years old to work the farm, and he taught himself how to read. Yet, we learned about Jesus by watching Arthur Lawson. It was subtle. It wasn’t a public faith, but a private faith where love for family demanded that forgiveness come quickly.

He was quick to forgive a grandson, who Pawpaw threatened to leave on the side of the road after an adolescent slip-up.

We broke everything. It was the lawnmower that we treated like a car (driving it into tree and basketball goals) or a skill saw we broke by too quickly pulling it off the top shelf. We destroyed his flower bed chasing each other. And killed at least two beautiful trees using them as bases for whiffle ball games. We picked all his grapes too early because they were perfect for throwing at one another.

Honestly, grandpa only really had ONE RULE – no ball in the house. It was really my brother’s fault – I threw the ball right to him. He just missed my great throw and that ball cleared a shelf of my grandma’s glass elephants. He was quick to forgive. He always said, sometimes through clinched teeth, “People matter more than stuff.” But this was also when I learned that forgiveness always costs someone. No one just forgives. We broke everything. And in his quick forgiveness, he paid the price. Either we had to pay for the brokenness, or he did. He loved us so much that he forgave even when he had to pay for it.

We have hope because someone paid the price for Arthur Lawson’s rejection of God’s best. In faith, Arthur was forgiven – but someone had to pay the price for the forgiveness. Jesus paid the price for Arthur’s rejection of him. And, for that reason, we celebrate a gift that wasn’t earned and that Jesus paid the price for.

Pawpaw loved a piece of poetry by John E. Roberts, “I’m Not Growing Old.”

They say that I am growing old

I’ve heard them say it times untold

In language plain and bold

But I’m not growing old

This frail old shell in which I dwell

Is growing old I know full well

But I’m not growing old.

I’m safe within the Saviour’s fold

‘Er long my soul shall fly away

And leave this tenement of clay

This robe of flesh I’ll drop and rise

To seize the everlasting prize

I’ll meet you on the streets of gold

And prove that I’m not growing old.

There was a moment on Saturday when it wasn’t Peter who met Pawpaw at the gates to eternity, but a pack of well-loved dogs, King, Smoky, and Trixie who ran up and welcomed him home.

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Chris Lawson

Founder of MyBigJesus.com, husband to Merri, father to Adam, Ellie, and Zachary, and executive pastor @reynoldachurch. Lives to make Jesus famous. He enjoys watching the Atlanta Braves and UNC basketball, as well as demeaning and insulting whatever sports teams you root for. He knows a disturbing amount about television and movies.

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