Standing in line at the Dollar General in Samantha can be entertaining at times, and this particular day was no exception. I overheard a couple of fellas who had not seen each other since high school catching up. “Hey man, where are you living now?” “Oh, I live about one mile down that road in front of the Jesus statue.” I thought about that conversation on my way home and as I turned into my drive I stopped at the statue in my yard and thought about the story behind this local landmark. After the death of my grandmother, Pealie Mae Williamson, in February 1998, my daddy, Johnny Williamson, was inspired to create a representation of the 23rd Psalm. It was her favorite scripture. A Cypress log was chosen for The Good Shepherd Statue because of the longstanding belief that the Cypress is the “gopher wood” (or kopher, which is the Hebrew word for waterproof) that Noah used to build the ark. Daddy worked alongside his longtime friend and local artist/sculptor, Willie Logan, to carve the 6-1/2 foot statue of The Good Shepherd.
It’s sort of amusing how you can become so accustomed to something that you no longer see it, or think about it. This statue has just been part of the normal landscape in my daddy’s yard for years. But, a few years ago I started noticing it when I would visit him. I developed a desire to know and understand what he saw, what his intentions were, and how he viewed The Good Shepherd Statue. I began to ask questions, and we spent hours sitting in the rockers on daddy’s front porch, shelling peas or peeling apples, as he tried to teach me.
Finally, after a ton of my questions, he said, just read, Joshua 4. You see, my father was a great teacher, but he didn’t just simply give you all the answers. He was a deep thinker and that is what he wanted me to do: think about it, ponder on it, dig for it, and come to know it on my own. Local newspapers had done some articles in the past on the statue, and I dug them up. He had told those reporters, “The Statue is a testimony of my faith. It isn’t meant to be an idol. You don’t worship it, but it gets people to think and do good deeds.” Hmm, Good deeds. Well, I had certainly seen him do many good deeds over the course of my life. Time and time again, I saw my daddy give to others. He was selfless. I don’t recall ever hearing him say he wanted anything for himself. Giving to others was always on his mind. And somehow, he managed to know what their needs were. A friend told me once, “your daddy was like a magnet, you just wanted to be around him.
Daddy had a heart attack in March (2013) and died four months later. I had the privilege of living in his house with him during those four months. During many long nights, when he couldn’t sleep, he talked intently about life, pouring story after story into my heart and life that I will never forget. A few weeks after his death, I was looking through his books and found A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller. I could feel my daddy’s big hands on the book as I opened it. Reading this book helped me connect the dots of what daddy had tried to tell me and it gave me a new understanding of The Good Shepherd. I went back and read Joshua 4. This time I really read it with my heart’s ears. Joshua 4 teaches us to set up memorials as a testimony of what God has done and so that our children and others will ask us “what does this mean”? If provides an opportunity to tell others about Jesus – to tell our story. Since 1999 when it was erected, The Good Shepherd Statue has caused much conversation. Some understand it, some don’t. It has certainly fulfilled it’s purpose of setting down stones as memorials according to Joshua 4. Folks from all over the United States stop by to see it and take pictures. The sheep was stolen once, but thanks to some good Samaritans it was returned to it’s place next to The Good Shepherd Statue. Some call it Jesus in a Box. Daddy never really liked that term. He would say, “everyone knows it’s not Jesus, and you cannot put Jesus in a box”. If you are ever traveling along Highway 43 in Samantha, you are welcome to stop and pay a visit. Check in on Facebook. Take pictures and ponder the meaning of The Good Shepherd.
His sheep know His voice.
Always keep “The Son” in your eyes.
Original printed March 2014 in Druid City Living