So many holy men in the world, but they are so hard to find. I guess the men who really know the Lord and follow Jesus have a tendency to hold back. To embrace humility and not get in the way of other people’s walk with the Lord is one of the most holy things you can do. So I guess when you find people like Monk, you have to realize you have found something rare. Something beautiful and something to watch.
Monk was a short man, bent slightly with age, but very strong. He was in charge of making sure the Sunday School had all the teachers and supplies they needed. At Harmony, there was Sunday School for all ages, and he was the one who would quietly walk up to you with bowed head and say, “A vacancy has opened up in the Third Grade Sunday School class. Sister Prayer just can’t teach anymore because of her back. So I prayed about it and had a talk with the Lord and your name came up. Please think about it and let me know how you feel led.”
Monk had a massive Bible he carried with him to the church. It was old, so old that every page it seemed had something scribbled in the margins, and with all different handwritings. Monk was one of the men who met everyone at the door to shake hands and greet visitors or members alike. He was one of the greatest men I ever met. I remember thinking he was an older man when I knew him as a fourteen-year-old.
I saw him a few years ago at a Cracker Barrel in St. Robert. He looked stronger that day than he did any other. I was so glad to see him and so overwhelmed with emotion that I just grabbed his shoulder as I walked by, squeezed it, told him I loved him and kept walking.
I was gone in a blink, lost in a crowd of people, and he had no idea where that comment, that confession of love came from. I know he has prayed about it. I can almost hear his soothing words over me as I speak now. As if he were right behind me with his hands on the back of my desk chair, his head bowed as he prays for the outcome of this journey and that it be God’s work, and God’s will.
Brother Monk cleaned the church. Thankless job that no one thinks about. He came every single day and cleaned a different section of the church. I heard about it and volunteered to help him. Every Saturday for a year he came out to the house at 7 in the morning to pick me up. We would go to the church and he had a job for me to do.
Vacuuming the chapel. Sweeping the dining hall. He never allowed me to clean the altar or any of the sections behind the altar, but that really didn’t register to me as a choice he was making.
I used to stand in front of the altar and stare at the giant Bible that sat on top of it. Every week someone flipped the page, but it was open to anyone who needed to search for an answer. I remember resting my hand on the altar, which was not an offense in the Southern Baptist Church, and feeling it thrumming under my hand.
I helped Monk clean the church every week. He was quiet while he worked and usually did his job in some other section of the church. I think he thought he was training a replacement because he was quick to show me things when special jobs would come up. When he found gum in the crack of the pew cushion, he showed me where the nitrogen can was and sprayed it until it was frozen. He took the dull side of his pocket knife and scraped at it until every trace of gum was gone.
Every now and then, I would ask to sit with Monk. We would sit in his spot, same spot every Sunday, and he would pull his Bible when the verses were called that the pastor was going to preach on, and find them with his thick finger. His finger would slide to the margin and he would read what had been said about that passage by him or whoever else his Bible had belonged to, then we would listen.
During the music section of the service, when the music director would ask for requests, he got the same request from Monk every time.
The Old Rugged Cross was Monk’s jam.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep.