I took my family to visit Callaway Gardens, one of west Georgia’s best kept secrets. This Eden-like place is only a twenty minute drive from our home located north of Columbus, Georgia. In 1930, Cason and Virginia Callaway picnicked in Harris County, Georgia. They fell in love with the natural beauty of the area and by 1932 they had acquired 2500 acres of area they planned to develop. In 1952, the gardens were opened to the public for the purpose of connecting “man and nature in a way that benefits both.”
Callaway Gardens is like a Garden of Eden nestled away in the southern most foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in west central Georgia. A descent southward off of Pine Mountain is the beginning of a journey that leads across the plains of Georgia toward the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. It is a paradise of Azaleas and Magnolias, of lakes and streams and well manicured golf courses. An astounding variety of birds and wildlife experience a ‘heavenly’ existence in the man-made sanctuary.
We were at Callaway to see the Birds of Prey presentation in June of 2013. My eight year old son, Kameron, was fascinated and thrilled as owls and hawks flew in out of ‘nowhere’, landed on the presenter’s arm and demonstrated their beauty and prowess to a captivated audience. Small children duck their heads as the flying birds swoop low enough to cool us with the breeze created by their wings.
I watched with interest as a woman wheeled an elderly man into the arena. This man with the white, bushy eye-brows was eager to find a seat and watch the presentation. His nurse navigated his chair to our row and helped transport him to a bench where he occupied a seat next to me. We made polite introductions and I asked him to repeat because his speech was obviously impaired due to a stroke.
“Hi, I’m Bo. Pleased to meet you.” We exchanged handshakes and began a pleasant and informative conversation. He shared a lot of facts with me as I tried to make all the connections. He said that his parents were instrumental in establishing the gardens. He was 86 years old. His mother had outlived his father by 35 years, never remarried and dedicated her life to developing the gardens. It finally dawned on me that this man was Howard Hollis “Bo” Callaway, the third son of Cason and Virginia Callaway, founders of the gardens.
Bo Callaway is a very important and influential man in our community. The man who came within a hair’s breadth of becoming governor of Georgia in 1966, a man whose family had given away millions to worthy causes over many years was humble, ordinary and unassuming that day at the Birds of Prey presentation.
As we drove homeward I was reminded of a verse in the Bible that alerts us to be prepared for the unexpected: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2 ) I was flattered that this important man was comfortable, even eager to strike up a conversation with someone who was unknown and had no importance in the community.
I thought of another passage in the Bible. "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4)
Every morning I walk down a long and lonely country road and talk with God. Every morning he meets me there. Occasionally I don’t show up but I have never been stood up by him. If I am flattered to sit with and speak to Bo Callaway, how much more amazing is it to meet with and speak to the God of the universe. He lowers his ear to hear my supplications. He reminds me that he is a God who “understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” ( Hebrews 4:15)
I am overwhelmed that:
“…God should love a sinner such as I
Should yearn to change my sorrow into bliss
Nor rest till He had planned to bring me nigh
How wonderful is love like this?
That for a willful outcast such as I
The Father planned, the Savior bled and died
Redemption for a worthless slave to buy
Who long had law and grace defied.” (Such Love by Robert Harkness)
He meets with me every day. He walks with me, he talks with me. He encourages me and sometimes he lovingly chastises me. The Creator of the universe befriends me. He desires that I might spend eternity with him.
I experience this miracle every day and it’s enough to blow my mind.