May I tell you something personal? I figured out on my own when I was only a kid that I was just passing through. You see, the times of my youth were not friendly to sissies, so Mother gave birth to just four hard headed boys to work the fields. I was the youngest, so I was always the tag-along. Her health broke and crops failed along with the economy, so Dad had to leave her in a state facility and take his workforce west to keep from starving. We left our farm and became “tramps.” We didn’t know that’s what we were until we got to California where residents laid it on us: “Fruit Tramps!” Not today’s politically correct “Migrant Workers,” or “Farm Workers.” No we were just a bunch of tramps looking for food and everyone knew what we did—we were just passing through.
I used to watch freight trains whistle by with hobos hanging on them. I envied them because they got to travel and see the world free of charge. Me? All I saw was jungles of fruit trees, endless deserts of garlic fields and cotton patches, and I had to work! We lived in storage sheds, tents, board shacks, cockroach hovels, and once lived in a flee-infested sheep shed with a roof only five feet off the ground. Hooves had beaten the dirt floor into dust powder that puffed with every step, which we breathed without dying. We didn’t mind the fleas, but our backs ached from walking in the humped over position. We didn’t care. We just laughed and joked our way through it all. Why? We were just passing through.
The states we passed through passed a law that kids my age had to go to school. Fine. I passed through as many as five of them per school year. Make friends? Are you kidding? I must have worn those holes in my ragged pockets from ramming my fists into them with anger at the kids making fun of this tramp. I once played hooky for three whole months without anyone knowing it except my dog. That kind of tricky skill was probably why I later worked for the IRS for over a decade. Anyway, Dad dusted my britches for it, but I got over it quick because I knew we were just passing through.
I think we brothers sprouted from diapers with guitar genes. None of us got healed from it because we couldn’t quit picking at it. I once had the lofty notion of becoming a hillbilly star, and even made a dent in the effort, but just when stardom blinded me, my good old Uncle Sam tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Sorry, bub, but I want YOU!” Oh well, all that glitter was only a passing fancy, so I decided to go with Uncle Sam—especially since the law backed his claim for my body and soul for four long years, which seemed in my young mind to be forty. So I set my sights on the end instead of the middle and told myself, “It’ll be a long trip, but I’ll get there because I’m just passing through.”
Smack in the middle of it the Good Lord cornered me at the altar of an evangelistic church. I tried to put Him off with, “But Lord, I’m too young for this. You see, I probably won’t hang around here for long because, well, I’m just passing through.”
He shot back immediately, “You don’t know the half of it. The WHOLE WORLD is just passing through! What you’ve got to decide is where you’re passing through TO!”
It was a no-brainer. Since I wasn’t the only one passing through, I figured I’d be better off to fix on the “TO” part. So that’s what I did.
That done, it’s as if the Lord stepped to my side and said, “Here, I want you to have this.” He gently slipped something into my hand. I lifted it and looked. There in my palm lay the most beautiful, sparkling diamond one can imagine!
My jaw dropped to my chest. “Lord! I can’t accept this! Who am I to merit such a priceless treasure? I’ve always been a bone-poor country boy. I haven’t done anything in my life to deserve it.” So I tried to hand it back to Him.
He just waved His hand and said, “No, I want you to have it. It’s true that you don’t deserve it, but I assure you, you’re going to really need this for what you’re about to pass through.”
So we were married on December 15, 1955.
Sure enough, the Lord was right. Numerous were the times when that diamond bailed me out of scrapes where I’d been beaten bloody. But she never left my side, not once. You see, as I said, I was a poverty-stricken country boy from Oklahoma, but she was a poverty-stricken country girl from Arkansas. So we simply joined our poverties into one poverty big enough to last a lifetime. We never had anything, lived on nothing, and retired on the results. But that diamond never once complained. Now don’t take that wrong. She is a spirited woman. She keeps needle claws, stands firm on righteous principles, and can spit hard enough to put out a fire. She always did. In fact, she spat on me quite a bit. We got through the scrapes because we not only joined poverties, but because we joined mutual aims—Heaven. It made poverty fun because we both knew that we’s just passing through.
Two baby girls sprung out of us, so we told them from the cradle what they could expect from us, that we were only sight-seeing on the way Home, and that they should also relax and enjoy the ride. Well, those two little angels have hit the half-century mark, but they’re still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and, yep, like us, they’re just passing through.
Our little family has seen a lot of sights go flitting by: Life’s mountain peaks, Grand Canyon gorges, shaky bridges, long tunnels, thick forests, and lots of desert, but the best part of seeing them was that we were only traveling, and that when we finally got tired of it we knew there was no place like Home.
You know, I found out in the Bible that everyone in there was just passing through like me. Take old Abraham: It says he was a “Sojourner,” a fancy word describing a guy passing through a strange land, living in tents, because he was looking forward to a City whose Builder and Maker is God. Come to think of it, that’s what I’ve been looking for all along. It reminds me of an old Gospel song nobody sings anymore that I haven’t heard since I was just a young squirt:
“This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the Blue.
The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”
So that’s how it is. You can have all this fancy stuff they call glamour, luxury, convenience, security, stylish, thrilling, and comfortable. Give me my tent, walking stick, and camel, ‘cause I’m just passing through.