I See the Family Resemblance

Many years ago, on a trip through Tennessee, Fred Craddock, a retired minister and seminary professor, stopped into a restaurant. As he drank a cup of coffee and ate a piece of pie, he met old man, long retired. When the elderly gentlemen found out that Craddock was a preacher, he told him the following story from his childhood.

The old man told Craddock that he had been born and raised in a little village near that restaurant. He had a single mother, and they were very poor. He was what they called back then an “illegitimate child,” a child born out of wedlock. When his mother and he came into town on Saturday, they were shunned by all the good people. They wouldn’t let their kids play with him, and some of them walked on the other side of the street when they saw his mother and him coming. He had many fights with boys at school over the names they called him and the bad things they said about his mother.

They had a little church in that village. The boy went to it sometimes. He would sneak in after the service started and slip out before the benediction so he would not have to face the church people and feel their disapproval. One day a new pastor came to the church. To check him out, the boy slipped into the backseat halfway through the service. And he liked his sermon. The pastor was young and talked so the boy could understand him.

But then the new preacher pulled a fast one on the boy. After the sermon he walked to the back of the church, announced that he wanted to meet everyone present, and then pronounced the benediction. The boy was trapped. He waited until the church was empty, hunkered down in the corner, hoping the pastor would not notice him. But he did. The new preacher walked over to him, thrust out his hand, and said, “Glad to see you boy. And tell me, who is your daddy?”

The boy turned red and dropped his head. The preacher didn’t know the details, but he knew he had asked the wrong question. The pastor took the boy by the chin, pulled his face up to look him straight in the eye, and said, “Oh, you don’t need to tell me. I already know. I see the family resemblance. I see it in your face. You are a child of God.”

The boy’s name was Ben Hooper. He went on to become the governor of the state of Tennessee. Imagine that!