Saturday, March 05, 2016


            One Saturday morning when I was eleven, I went to see Mr. Hedgepath, my pastor at Conway Methodist Church.  It was my very first time to seek out a pastor for a personal conversation. 

            In the sixth grade, I was just about to come into puberty.  My voice had not changed.  I had little body hair.  I was intelligent but rather socially odd—at least compared with my peers.  I desperately wanted to be popular, but somehow felt all the surefire ways of doing so as a boy were blocked to me.  I was not interested in nor good at sports.  I had few close male friends.  The girls that I wanted to like me seemed always to be drawn to more boyish boys. 

            I remember asking Mr. Hedgepath if it were OK for me not to play sports.  I obviously wanted some assurance that I was in fact all right.  I was beginning to suspect that I was “different.”  In fact I knew I was.  Almost none of my peers, girls or boys, was nearly so enchanted as was I with churchy things.  I liked a raft of things that few other kids, boys especially, seemed to care at all about—house cleaning, flower arranging, gardening (I grew zinnias from seeds), genealogy, local history, visiting older people.  I doubt that I unpacked very much of that for the pastor.  I might have had a few other issues—but I can only remember the question I put to him about playing football and baseball, they being clearly the focus of my visit.

            Mr. Hedgepath, said, “Frank, I think football and baseball are fine—I played them both, but I don’t think you have to.” He proceeded to look for a book he wanted to lend or give me.  He never could lay his hand on it, but in the process of looking, he pulled out a thin little volume called God’s Perfect Way for You, by Hazel Pickett.   He gave it to me, suggesting that I might find it helpful.  I think I never opened it.  I could never get past the title.  I thought, as I grew older and occasionally cast my eye on the fading blue cover, that it was likely a book that would reveal to me that God had a “perfect” way for me that somehow I would find it terribly difficult to live up to. 

            I held on to the book for one reason.  Mr. Hedgepath had given it to me.  In all the downsizings through the years, I have never even seriously thought of giving or throwing it away.  Nor have I had any intention of reading it.  Apparently I never read the subtitle: “A Manual of the different Ways we may come to know God as a Living Presence within us, and thereby reach complete fulfillment and complete joy.”  Words were unimportant, but the gift, my only token of a real childhood model and mentor, was precious. 

            In my latest thinning out of books, I picked up Mrs. Pickett’s book.  I opened it and began reading.  Much to my surprise, it turns out to be something of a practical mystagogy.  It is not the kind of book I would likely write or even buy.  But what impresses me is how much I understand of it today and how little of it I would have understood sixty years ago.  I could not have understood much more than the bare words on the page.  I would have missed the message entirely. 

            Hazel Pickett was clearly a mystic, in the sense that she had a direct experience of God.  Like all mystics, she transcends binary thinking and understands the fundamental Unity of all things and persons with God.  Her grasp of the “perfect way” is a contemplative, peaceful, joyous ride with the Almighty. 

            It has taken me six decades to arrive at the point where I am able to read appreciatively the book Mr. Hedgepath pulled off his library shelf.  Maybe unconsciously I saved it until the kairos moment—when the time was fulfilled and I was ready.

© Frank Gasque Dunn


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