The Brooks family lived in the country, but every day Charles and his brothers and sisters attended school in the city. A yellow bus stopped in front of their house and collected them, then dropped them back home after school.
In the winters when the sun went down early, many activities occurred at night. So if you wanted to have any fun in those days, you couldn’t be scared of the dark.
This would not be a problem for those who had a car, or someone to pick them up. But when Charles or his siblings missed the school bus to attend nighttime activities, getting home could be daunting. The last city bus of the day disembarked at a wealthy subdivision called Fairfield. From there, Charles had to walk a mile and a half through dark country streets and pitch-black forests to get home.
Now, if you stayed out too late, your penance was to get off at Fairfield and walk alone through the “valley of the shadow of death.” After a mile on the highway, a path snaked through a forest whose trees shielded the stars, making it so dark as to be enveloping. Nocturnal creatures moved all around, and the noises of crunching leaves and snapping twigs were enough to drive one mad. Owls hooted, and in the slivers where the moon penetrated the octopus-tentacled tree branches, one could see bat wings beating a sinister rhythm!
To get to the Brooks home, Charles had to cross two creeks and the infamous Hatcher Plantation. Hatcher was a bizarre man, a tobacco farmer whom everyone in the county was frightened of. He had five vicious dogs that roamed his plot, and if you wanted to cross the property without being detected by them, you had to tiptoe across a patch of sand, being sure to not make a sound.
Charles always knew he was nearing home when he glimpsed the porch light that his mother always left on at night. There remained just one more obstacle when the light was visible: Schloser’s Pasture. Schloser was a butcher who was only a little less eccentric than Hatcher. Throughout the day and part of the night the old man could be seen on his porch, rocking trancelike in his chair. A glimpse of Schloser at night could cut the time home in half.
One night Charles stayed late in the city talking with friends over a soda. It so happened that he was the only one in the group who lived in the country, so he’d have to make the walk home alone. Stepping off the bus at Fairfield, Brooks entered the forest, which seemed downright abysmal that night. Hearing movement all around him, he hurried his pace.
Charles maneuvered through Hatcher Plantation without incident and soon approached Schloser’s Pasture. As he came into the clearing that afforded a full view of the forsaken land, he stopped dead in his tracks. On a hill about 100 yards away in Schloser’s Pasture was a sight that made his blood run cold.
Silhouetted by the moonlight was a tall man wearing a white shirt, both arms stretched out. The man had no head.
Charles stood staring, his spine tingling. He squinted, rubbed his eyes, then squinted again. Was he seeing things? To his eyes this looked like a ghost, wandering the countryside under a full moon.
But Charles didn’t believe in ghosts. The Bible states that “the dead know nothing” (Eccl. 9:5). And Charles believed the dead were dead, awaiting the Second Coming of Jesus. But here was a headless apparition in plain sight, apparently contradicting this belief.
Charles sank to his knees. He prayed that God would clear this up, and give him understanding. While in prayer he couldn’t help stealing glances at the sinister figure on the rise. Eerily, it hadn’t moved an inch since he first saw it.
Finally, Charles rose and began walking toward the figure. He felt stones under his feet, so he picked up a couple and threw them toward the man on the hill. Still there was no movement, the white shirt rippling slightly when a soft wind wafted past.
Next Charles called to the man. He knew it didn’t make sense to speak to a headless corpse, but what else could he do after the man didn’t budge at rocks thrown his way? The figure still didn’t respond, but as Charles got closer, the white shirt gleamed brighter in the moonlight.
When he was almost 70 feet from the summit of the hill, Charles had to stoop and crawl beneath the barbed wire that snaked around Schloser’s Pasture. Once through, he manfully approached the hill. When he was within 50 feet of the figure he stopped, refocused, and broke into a relieved laugh!
The “headless man” was a tree stripped bare of its leaves, its branches on either side looking like outstretched limbs. The “white shirt” was an elaborate spiderweb circling the tree many times. The silk of the web gleamed bright in the moonlight, appearing bleached white.
From that night, on Brooks never doubted his beliefs again. This was the secret to the power of his later ministry, in which he brought some 14,000 people to Jesus.
In the times we are living in, it is popular to doubt everything and really stand for nothing. If you do have beliefs, they are challenged daily by what you see and hear on the Internet, TV, popular music, etc. So kids grow up without really believing in anything because whenever their beliefs are questioned, they can’t meet the challenge.
The Bible says we are to fight for our beliefs (Jude 3). This means that when a person, idea, situation, show, conversation—whatever—causes you to question your principles, you must pray about it, see what the Bible says, then use your brain to come to a conclusion.
Throughout it all, know that God is with you in the darkest night of doubt. If you stay near Him and seek His counsel, He will always show you the truth.
—Benjamin Baker writes from Rockville, Maryland.
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