Dark Time Conversations with God

Perhaps for the first time this afternoon, Bea Hensley’s anvil was quiet, and there was total silence in Gillespie Gap. Even the winds had died away. Not even the winds dared interrupt when Bea Hensley had a new idea coming his way. He found them waiting for him in the dark. Always in the dark.

Bea Hensley at Work. Photograph: Cedric N. Chatterley

He was not a tall man, and the only thing big about him was his smile. He had slapped it on his face a long time ago, and the smile had never bothered to leave. He walked out into the hollow and saw that night had not yet escaped the valley, nor was it in any hurry to leave. Nothing unusual about that. The stars, if they had lit the sky at all, were on the backside of the trees, and only fragmented splinters of moonlight ever fell past the branches far enough to touch his shoulder.

Bea Hensley had not looked at the clock when he left the chilled innards of his home. He didn’t need to. This was the time he awoke every morning.

It was three o’clock. He was not alone in the darkness.

“Morning, God,” he said.

No answer. He did not expect one, not spoken in an audible voice anyway.

“It’s me again.”

He knew God would recognize his voice, always did, never failed, but all he heard was the suffocating silence of the night. In the mountains, night arrived late and left the same way.

“Same as usual,” he said, getting straight to the point. “I need for you to give me a new idea. I don’t have one. You make ‘em up pretty regular. I need one, preferably this morning.”

Bea Hensley had never been stricken with ambition. All he had ever wanted to do was earn a decent living, and in the remote backwoods of Appalachia, he set up his shop and slowly gained recognition as one of the country’s most gifted blacksmiths.

He did not shoe horses, no matter what the sign said. Bea Hensley fashioned ornate chandeliers, andirons, and candle stands from molten metal. He was an artist working in a different medium. That was all. He had a vision all his own.

The narrow road that ran in front of his shop brought the multitudes to Gillespsie Gap. People from both sides of the mountains came to gaze at his work and marvel at the inspiration and genius behind his creations.

“Where did you get the idea to do something like that?” somebody, sooner or later, always asked him.

Bea Hensley and his son Mike. Photograph: Cedric N. Chatterley

Bea Hensley would only smile in a backwoods and humble sort of way. He never answered them directly. He could. But he didn’t. Only he knew the truth. The truth came from somewhere in the darkness, and there he was, back in the woods, carrying on a one-man conversation, as he always did, at three o’clock in the morning. Every morning, it was always the same.

Never a prayer.

Simply a conversation.

God, he said, liked it better that way.

He was standing cloaked in the darkness and asking the Good Lord to send him a new idea. It did not even have to be a big one as long as it was a good one.

“Three o’clock in the morning is a good time to talk to the Lord,” he told me.

“Why is that?”

“Neither me nor him is busy that time of night.”

Bea Hensley had a direct line, a clean and uninterrupted line, and he doubted if the Good Lord was sleeping anyway. The Lord never had to wait for his call. Bea Hensley was always right on time.

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Email me at caleb@calebandlindapirtle.com, and I will send you a free download of my book, Other Voices, Other Towns. Let me know if you need files for a Kindle or Nook.

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  • I have always preferred to practice my religion in quiet places, too. I am put off by noisy hymns and blustering sermonizers. I believe that God speaks in whispers to all of us, all of the time. Yeah, I think that Hensley had it right and the proof is in his work.

  • Caleb Pirtle

    Jack: I think the Good Lord prefers conversations to prayers anyway.

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