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Keith Wishum: A hiding place

“Dance!” he said.

My brother had picked up my grandfather’s 20-gauge shotgun from the porch and was pointing it at my feet. My brother had watched too many Westerns, and my granddad had been careless with his hair-trigger gun.

Of course, I refused to dance. No way would I give him the pleasure. Besides, being an upstanding church-going Bible belt child, I would never dance — especially not in my grandmother’s front yard.

“I said, ‘Dance’,” he shouted again. As he said it this time, he shook the shotgun.

As the deafening blast echoed across the yard, and the turf vanished between my feet, I danced! Right there in Grandmamma’s yard, in front of God and everybody, I danced. Higher than I had ever leapt, arms flailing, legs kicking, I danced. It was hardly ballet. There was no pirouette (more of a poulet enivré). But I danced.

Before I landed, my brother was running around the house corner. I hit the ground running the other way. We met at the back of the house and dove under the back porch together.

I still don’t know why I was hiding, but something told me that, with this crime, we would both be found guilty in family court. So we hid. Hoping that our parents had suddenly gone deaf and hadn’t heard the cannon in the front yard, hoping that when they rushed outside they wouldn’t notice the smoking gun or the gaping hole in the front yard, hoping they would assume the gun had gone off by itself and that is was purely coincidental that we had mysteriously disappeared.

We were afraid, so we hid. We were guilty, so we hid.

You know that feeling. You know how it feels when you realize you’ve really messed up, and you’re caught. You know what it’s like to be in deep trouble. We are all familiar with the gnawing fear when there is danger about.

Where do you hide? Where can we run for protection?

The Psalmist said of God long ago, “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance” (Psalm 32: 7).

Our Father offers to be our hiding place. No matter what we have done, we can hide our sin forever in him. No matter how powerful the attack, we can be safely shielded in him.

Need a hiding place? There is room here for all of us.

Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church, Americus.