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Monday, February 22, 2010

A Man of Sorrows

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not
(Is. 53:5.)

I take that passage for granted. What does a “man of sorrows” look like when he is not the son of God?

Years ago, I toyed with the idea of writing a book entitled, THEY WERE PEOPLE TOO. My motivation was to address the tragedies, so many of our nation’s chief executives faced.

Abraham Lincoln knew tragedy. Before the White House years (known then as the Executive Mansion), he and his wife, Mary, lost a son. Then, as president in 1862, during the dark days of the Civil War, Willie, age 11, contracted "the fever." Tragically, he died. Lincoln stoically mourned his loss.

Almost two years later, in February 1864, a fire alarm rang out. The Executive Mansion’s stables were on fire. A tall man dashed out of the mansion and vaulted over a hedge calling out, “Have the horses been taken out?” Seeing they had not, he used his strong hands to rip open the stable door. Inside, the stable was an inferno. In spite of the hellish conditions, the man prepared to sprint inside.

At this point, it dawned on bystanders that the man hurrying inside was the president of the United States. Furthermore, the thought occurred to the captain of his bodyguards, the fire might be arson, set to lure the president outdoors for an attempted assignation. Taking control of the situation, a Captain Bennett of the Union Light Guard, along with some of his men, seized the president and hurried him back into the Executive Mansion.

The night was controlled pandemonium as dozens of men sought to contain the fire and minimize its damage. Sadly, the stables burned to the ground. All of the horses inside perished.

Throughout the night, the president maintained a solitary presence in East Room, standing at the window watching the fire systematically destroy the stable. One of the guards noted the president weeping the entire time. Why? And why had he so foolishly risked his life attempting to rush inside?

Another of Lincoln’s boys, Tad, offered an answer. Inside the stable, was Willie’s favorite pony and constant companion. The president willingly risked his life to save Willie’s pony.

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