Her back was aching and her hands were blistered and cut. Ten hours in the field picking cotton was more than anyone should have to endure. Henrietta couldn’t wait to get back to the hut and just lay down for just a minute or two before fixing dinner for her family.
“Alright, you all go on back to your quarters now. Sun’s ‘bout to set and I gotta get home,” the overseer shouted.
Henrietta felt privileged that her master was good to his slaves. Her mistress’s daughter, Sarah, had even taught her to read. She knew others were not as fortune, but it didn’t change the fact that she was still a slave. Freedom’s fire burned deep in her soul. It was a desire that consumed her and caused her heart to ache worse than her back ever did. She knew in her heart of hearts that the human soul was made for freedom. If it weren’t for the little black Bible that Sarah had snuck to her to practice her reading, she didn’t know how she could endure the unseen chains that bound her.
Henrietta walked home, singing a hymn:
“Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!
E'en tho' it be a cross
That raiseth me;
Still all my song shall be---
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!”
As she sang, the burden of the day began to lift off her and a comfort settled over her soul like a blanket.
As Henrietta approached her house, a brood of children swarmed around her, the oldest holding a baby in her arms.
“Momma, you gotta feed Hannah, she’s so hungry,” her daughter pleaded as she handed the baby to her mother.
Henrietta reached out to take her little one in her arms. How she longed for a better future for her children. She took the baby in and lay down on the blanket-covered bed made of hay. As the little one nursed, she pulled out from under the bed her most prized possession; the little black Bible. She opened it to Philippians 4:6-7,
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Peace. Tears welled up in Henrietta’s eyes. Despite the aching, longing, torturous longing for freedom, God had filled her heart with peace.
“It’s just like the book says, ‘A peace that passesth all understanding.’ Oh God, thank you for this peace in my heart.”
Somehow she knew that her present circumstances would not remain the same. She knew, not in her mind, but in her heart, that freedom’s promise was on the horizon.
As she stroked the sweet chubby face of her daughter, her heart overflowed with peace, “Hannah, your gonna live in freedom.”
"Nearer, My God, to Thee" (1859)
[Music by S. Glover.]
Words by Sarah Francis Adams [Flower].
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