Huckleberry Finn

Last week I had learned that California was banning several books from its school curriculum, including “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” I guess it’s a book that some folks think will do our youngsters more harm than good.

I’ve read this book many times, mostly as a teenager. It’s been decades since the last time. For old time’s sake, I pulled a copy from the bookcase and started reading.

For me, this book was my first experience in understanding slavery outside of school history books. My father was extremely racist and raised his son to be like him, so I was surprised to learn about the relationship between Huckleberry Finn and a runaway slaved named Big Jim. My father’s hatred for black people wasn’t justified.

What wasn’t my first experience in reading this book was Huck’s alcoholic father. I grew up in a home with a father who was much like his. Drunken, violent behavior was the norm. Once a proud man who worked for a living, he found himself being destroyed by his addiction. Like Huck’s father, Pap, he blamed everything and everyone for his circumstances and was unafraid to take his anger out on anyone who crossed his path.

The story of Huck Finn is about him escaping from his father and meeting Big Jim who was escaping from slavery. They developed a unique relationship and had many grand adventures as they rode a raft down the Mississippi. It was about freedom.

“…away we went, a sliding down the river, and it did seem so good to be free again and all by ourselves on the big river and nobody to bother us.”

This was a story I could relate to! Like Huck, I grew up on a river and longed to see where it came from and where it was going. But mostly, I wanted to be free from my father’s drunken violence.

Huck learned that his father had actually died, so he was free. In a sense, mine did, too, although I simply left and never returned. Yet, Huck was, like me,  troubled by the memories. Reading this book brought these up.

I suppose I used to read it years ago as a sort of therapy as I tried to make sense out of someone else’s sin. In a sense, it worked; but I realize now after picking it up again that it really didn’t. You see, it brought back memories that really don’t need to be revisited.

What I longed for was freedom, but it wasn’t Huck Finn that set me free. It wasn’t a river. It wasn’t in chasing all the things in life that I thought would bring me freedom. No, those things only kept me in chains. There is only one solution to slavery for all of mankind: Jesus.

John 8:36 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

We don’t know what happened to Huck Finn as he grew into manhood. In the book, he didn’t drink whiskey like his father. Regrettably, I did. Thankfully, I wasn’t the violent man like my father, but booze eventually almost took my life. By God’s grace, he had mercy on me and forgave my sin. Jesus paid that price and set me free.

Like Huck, I wrote off “religion.” But, behind all the twisted, perversion of the Catholic faith that I grew up in, it couldn’t completely hide the truth of the gospel. Catholicism isn’t truth. However, like Catholics, I worshiped a god of my own design. All that changed when Jesus touched me.

Folks, I am here to attest that there is no river that will set you free. There are no friends to run away with that will help find freedom. Money, power, fame won’t get it. Neither will isolation. Nor will religion. Freedom is in the Son.

For my sins, I find freedom:

Isaiah 55:6-7 “Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

For the sins of our fathers or others who have harmed us:

Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.

I’m not going to finish Huck Finn this time around. I don’t need to. I have another book to read, one that breathes life into my soul. Huckleberry Finn dredges up memories yet doesn’t offer healing; it can’t. God won’t give his glory to another. Please don’t misunderstand, I think California, in their wisdom, is foolish by banning this book. However, for me, I no longer need it for what I once used it for.

I have something better.

Maybe California needs to read my post.

Father, once again, I get back to thanking you for your mercy on me. I did nothing other than pile up sin. Yet, for reasons known only to you, you forgave me and healed me. Thank you. Amen.

Copyright © 2020 Scott Powers

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

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