Many years ago a gentleman was born in western Kentucky named Odell Lamb. They called him “Red Lamb” because of his wavy red locks and his ruddy complexion. Odell went from the Kentucky farm to the German battlefields. He served in World War II and was present at the Battle of the Bulge. He came back to the Unites States and settled down with his wife Edna. They had two children together. He worked at the stove plant and also farmed in beautiful Calloway County.
By the time I came to the New Providence church, Odell had lived a long and healthy life. He was retired, but still farming. He had served as an elder in the church for many years, but had now left that work, too. I was only 25; he was about to turn 80. He had a kindness about him. His smile was warm and genuine. He never missed an opportunity to worship with the saints. He always – ALWAYS wore a suit.
Every once in a while there is a person in your life who brings nothing but positive things. In the four years I preached at New Providence, Odell Lamb was peace and joy. Always encouraging – always thankful – always one of my biggest fans. He was dependable, and as solid as a Christian man could be in every aspect of life. He was honorable, he was gentle, he was strong, and he was loving. If you wanted a walking definition of a mature Christian, you would look no further than Red Lamb. When he prayed, you could tell you were listening to a man who had prayed before. He talked with God as one who had carried on life’s conversations with his Creator for more than a generation.
In 2003, I left green fields of Kentucky winter wheat for the rolling hills and streams of southern Tennessee. But I still go back to Murray State Racer country now and then. When I go, I always stop by and look for Mr. Lamb. He resides at Emeritus, an assisted living facility for the elderly. Last October when I saw him he was in bed and could not leave it. I was sure that visit with my friend would be our last. But this past Wednesday, I stopped by again and he was still there; still in bed, and only two weeks short of his 95th birthday. When I walked in the door he immediately straightened up, smiled, and exclaimed, “Jeremiah! I never would have thought it!” We sat and talked for awhile about old times and caught up on the new. What a wonderful visit we shared with one another!
Before I left our discussion turned to more serious matters, and he said to me plainly, “I am ready to go to heaven.” “So ready….Ohhhhhhh boy!” As I relay his words it is impossible for me to express his tone of voice and the look behind his eyes. But he said these words with excitement, joy, and a deep longing for something he had been working toward for 95 years. He did not say this because he was unhappy. He was not complaining about his age or the weakness of his body. He was simply saying that he was so blessed to be a Christian and that his time on earth was over and he could hardly stand to wait any longer. He said these things with the understanding that the better country was on the horizon and he could almost touch it. I have seen many a weary Christian long for heaven on a bed of affliction. But I do not know if I have ever seen a deeper joy, a greater hope, or a truer, more genuine faith.
I left and thought, wow! I had just seen something really special. I now know what I want if I ever live to be old. I want that feeling. I want that confidence. I want that anticipation. I want that hope.
Heaven is really going to be glorious beyond imagination. I pray that one day I will be able to see it from the place where I lay my head and say, “Ohhhhhhh boy!”
“For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.”
– Hebrews 11:14
Photo background credit: Martin Andersson on Creative Commons