The Picture of the Old Man
The picture I remember so well as a child is of an old man bowing his head in prayer over his food which consists of a loaf of bread and a bowl. This picture is a very popular one, and many of you may have seen it in people’s homes or it may even be in your home. The picture is called “Grace” by a photographer named Enstrom, and it was taken in 1918 and sold as black and white photographs or in sepia tones. As the picture’s popularity grew, the photographer’s daughter began hand painting the picture for sale.
The reason this picture holds such sentimental value for me is because the first time I ever laid eyes on this picture was at the home of my paternal great grandparents. My grandfather’s parents lived in a small house in the country, and I would go there almost every week and visit with them while my mother fixed my great grandmother’s hair. When my great grandfather was alive, I would talk with him when he was able to sit up out of bed, and after he passed away when I was 10 year old, I enjoyed talking with my great grandmother about various things.
One day, after years of admiring the picture of the old man which sat in a frame atop a small hutch in my great grandmother’s kitchen, I decided to ask her about it. She, my mother, and I were standing in the kitchen talking as we normally did just before we ended each week’s visit. I causally brought the subject of the picture up after I noticed that my great grandmother just happened to be standing beside it as she talked. Little did I realize that the answer she gave would instill within me a life lesson that I still carry with me to this very day.
My great grandmother said that the picture was given in memory of my great-great-great grandfather, Charles Irving Lafayette Barnes, to each of his children just after his passing in 1935. One of his children was my great-great grandfather, who passed the picture along to my great grandfather in whose house I was standing at the time of this conversation. My great grandmother stated that the reason that this particular picture was given to the children of my great-great-great grandfather, Charles Irving Lafayette Barnes, was because the old man in the picture was considered almost identical in looks to him. As a side note, my great grandmother also said that the picture reminded her husband of his grandfather the most because whenever my great greatgreat grandfather was not working on his farm or some other task, he could be seen reading his Bible and praying over meals and at other times. She said that is what her husband remembered the most about his grandfather was that he prayed so very often and read his Bible several times a day. She also made the statement that the world would be such a better place if everyone could be remembered in the same way after they have left the earth.
What my great grandmother had to say about her husband’s grandfather is so very true and applicable today. Although her words were uttered very casually in response to a question regarding a very well-circulated picture, I still think about this moment in my life, and how I, as a Christian, should follow the example that my great greatgreat grandfather set so many years ago, as well as the example of other faithful Christians who have gone on to their reward in Paradise. I know that my great-great-great grandfather was a member of the church of Christ, as he is buried in the cemetery located outside of the church of Christ building I attended as a child. I also know that he set the example of making prayer and Bible study a priority in his life, to the point that his actions are talked about decades after his death. I am reminded of Matthew 5:16 which says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Wouldn’t it indeed be a wonderful place if everyone followed the example of faithful Christians who spend their lives serving the Lord, and who are not afraid to set this example before others? We, as Christians, are to be in the world, yet not of the world. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2). We should never let anything get in the way of serving God and keeping His commandments! “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
The picture of the old man still holds a lot of sentimental value to me whenever I see it in a store or in someone’s home because it reminds me of the joyful visits I had at my great grandparents’ home, and it also reminds me of that inspirational talk I had with my great grandmother about that picture. It also holds sentimental value to me because it gives me an idea of what my great-great-great grandfather looked like. Most importantly, it is a reminder of a very important lesson I learned about being a faithful Christian that I still apply in my life today. May we all strive to be better Christian examples to others so that stories of how we set the proper Christian example will be passed on from generation to generation!
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