This story came from a literature text book I read in high school. The message was so powerful and it has stayed with me all these years. I hope it is a blessing to you as well.
Visitors to the State Capitol at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, will find on its walls a magnificent set of murals painted by Violet Oakley, a Philadelphia artist. Most of the pictures portray well-known dramatic events and persons renowned in American history. But the most startling, just inside the door of the Senate chamber, is the picture of a humble pioneer couple at a critical moment in their lives.
John and Mary were young parents who lived far out beyond the white settlement at the edge of the forest. They lived by what was considered a peculiar religion. Among their unusual practices was one of leaving the latchstring outside so that anyone could enter their cabin without knocking.
Wooden latches like theirs may still be seen on crude buildings. A heavy bar on the inside fitted into a wooden notch and fastened the door. To this bar was attached a leather thong called the latchstring. This thong was passed through a hold in the door so that anyone wishing to enter could raise the bar and unlock the door by pulling down on the string. It was the usual custom to draw the latchstring inside at night so that no one could enter without knocking. John and Mary, however, left their latchstring hanging outside by night as well as by day.
There came a night when they pulled it inside for awhile. This is the night shown in the picture. That afternoon a messenger had come riding with dreadful news - Indians were on the warpath! They were painting their faces and making gruesome preparations; that night they would be out in earnest. The young parents could not possibly reach the fort by nightfall with their children; they had to stay.
"Well, then," urged the messenger, "at least when you go to bed pull in that string, so that the red men will not be able to walk right in while you are asleep."
He rode away through the forest, and John and Mary faced the night.
They held family worship as usual and as usual sent the children into the loft to bed. After talking over the danger, they decided that "just this once" the latchstring should be pulled inside. They barred the door and lay down in their bed by the fire. But sleep would not come. In their minds that bar meant a denial of their faith. They had committed themselves to the LORD tonight as on other nights. The father arose and put the string outside as usual. Then they went to sleep.
At dawn they were awakened. Someone was stealthily pulling on the latchstring, for the bar was slowly rising. As they watched, the door swung open, and there in the doorway stood six painted Indians, armed with tomahawks and scalping knives.
It is this dreadful moment that the artist has chosen for the mural. There are the pale and terrified parents, the hesitant Indians. The artist has added, above, a great angel with hands outspred over the defenseless heads. It was a dreaful moment, but only a moment. The door swung to again, and the Indians went so quickly and so silently away that their presence seemed only a dream.
But it was not a dream, for that morning found white homes in ruins all up and down the valley and the Indians escaping to their hills. Only John and Mary and their children, of all the white people in that valley, were left unharmed.
The Indians had known for a long time about the peculiar people whose latchstring hung outside. They knew that at such homes an Indian was not an inferior beast, but a brother. At any time he might go in, tired and cold and hungry, to rest by the fire and share the family meal. Such homes were precious to the Indians, and they wanted them to remain. As Indian who was later captured said that if they door had been fastened against them, John and Mary would have died that night with the other settlers.
This verse comes to mind when I read this story:
I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8
I am just an ordinary girl who is loved by an extraordinary God and I seek to love others the same way. I love to bake, read, do puzzles, watch Hallmark movies, and go shopping with my mom! This blog was created as a place where I could share some thoughts that the Lord has shown me and to be an encouragement to others who desire to know Him in a deeper way. My prayer is to learn to sit still and trust God with my future.
Love Jane Austen? Looking for a unique gift for those special people in your life? Visit Return to Innocence Era and take a step back in time when the simple things were still valued.