Roy Exum: Ben Haden’s $5,000 Wager

Saturday, October 26, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

There aren’t many people in the world that can tell you this but I can testify that right before you die, there comes a very marked moment when every human being ceases to care. It is like something snaps inside your soul and suddenly nothing matters any more, not your God or your kids or all you hold dear. While it isn’t frightening or even scary at all, mankind’s moribund moment just happens, and you don’t worry that death is at your very door.

I don’t talk about it much but back in 2008 there came the day that I died. With five different infections raging inside of me, I sensed the darkness come despite the lights in ICU and I’ll never forget the indescribable cold in my arms and legs as my circulatory system shut down. I will also never know why God didn’t take me that day. After what seemed like hours but was actually just about 25 minutes, I regained consciousness and my arms and legs were warm.

I tell this story because several hours later that same day, a nurse leaned close to whisper I had a phone call and the caller had said it was urgent. So with the Mayo Clinic nurse holding the handset this familiar voice came over the line, “Roy, this is Ben … I need to make a bet.”

While I was really eager to tell to my pastor, Ben Haden, about where I’d been earlier that day, this wasn’t the time. Instead I wanted to laugh at the absurdity of “The Rev” making a wager of any kind. Good grief, God had just given me some “extra innings” and if dared to become party in a gambling venture with the Holy man, I realized I wasn’t exactly out of the woods and a relapse would cause God to rain on me like Sodom and Gomorrah.

“No, Ben … that’s stupid. You ain’t betting on anything,” I said, both of us aware he was such a beloved friend it was really as though he was a key member of our family. He’d come to Chattanooga in 1967 to follow Dr. Fowle at First Presbyterian Church and soon became not just our spiritual leader but a tried-and-true family confidante.

“Roy, I am going to bet and I am going to bet tonight. I have $5,000 in cash and all I need is for you to tell me where to take it,” he said with an earnestness in his voice. “I’ve got a bet there is no way I can lose. Trust me on this. I know what I am doing …”

Me? I can’t believe this is happening. By now I was so paranoid I figured the Lord was testing me, giving me some sort of litmus test to see if the proverbial wool was dry or wet. “Please, Ben … ” I said. “What in the world do you want to bet on? This is not right, there is no good place this is gonna go and $5,000 is a lot of money. What is this about?”

And then Ben Haden, with the same certainty and sureness he has put on exhibit in thousands of sermons, said, “I want to bet on you. You’re going to come through this and you are going to be fine. I don’t know why God has allowed this to happen but He will use it for good. He has some big plans, bigger than you can ever dream, when you finally get through this because He loves you more than you will ever know.”

No, I had been shown that pretty explicitly earlier than day so with tears rolling down both my cheeks and the nurse who was holding the phone, Ben Haden launched into maybe the most tender prayer I ever heard him say and told me to come see him when I got back home.

When my beloved Ben Haden went to be with his Jesus early Thursday morning, I was left with enough memories to write a book and a heart filled with his grace that he carefully cultivated in me during all the bad times and tough times and hard times that he has been right by my side. I bet the two of us have eaten breakfast together over 500 times in my life and it goes without saying he was one of my dearest friends.

I remember one day we were driving back from having lunch and my car was stopped at a red light at Fourth and Market. A homeless beggar shuffled from one side of the street to the other and Ben said, “See that guy? His mother still believes that one day he’ll become the President of the United States … I never met anyone’s mother who didn’t totally believe that about her son.”

Moreover, Ben adored my entire family, going to dinner and a movie every Friday night with a warm, personal crowd that included my Uncle Tat (Lee Anderson) and Aunt Betsy. My mother was one of his wife Charlene’s closest friends and my late Grandfather loved him from the very start, talking to him often and sharing story after story. Trust me, Ben was loved by many other families than just mine but our love, as they say in the religious realm, was “agape” – absolutely unconditional.

We all loved him very much and I’ll always cherish the fact that on the day that I died, he was still willing to bet a bundle on me. It doesn’t get any stronger than that. What a man. What a Christ!

* * *

Funeral services for Ben Haden will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 29, in the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church at 11:00 a.m. with visitation to follow in the Fellowship Hall.

royexum@aol.com


It's Raining Cats And Dogs, So Who Cares?

Approximately half of Hamilton County residents reside in Chattanooga. That half pays double property tax for that great privilege. Chattanooga's city tax dollars fund the McKamey Animal Shelter and their county taxes supply more than half of the funds provided for a Humane Society that does not serve them.  The complexity and cost of care required to collect stray ... (click for more)

Why The 2-Sided Sidewalk On Wide And Busy Highway 58?

I don’t know if it's the state or the city of Chattanooga that is spending a lot of money to build sidewalks and/or bike trails on Highway 58 (from Webb Road to Jersey Pike). We will have the finest walking/biking sidewalk that crosses at least a dozen businesses with heavy traffic and at best you have to cross six lanes of traffic to get to the other side to catch the sidewalk ... (click for more)

Driver Of Fleeing Truck Almost Hits Patrol Vehicle Of Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson; Gooch Arrested After Wreck

Deputies with the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office took an area man into custody on Friday afternoon after the stolen truck he was driving forced Sheriff Eric Watson to take evasive action to avoid striking the vehicle.   Sheriff Watson was patrolling in the area of Bates Pike when an alert was issued for a light blue F-150 pickup truck for a possible vandalism in progress. ... (click for more)

Man Drove On Pineville Railroad Tracks Trying To Flee Police

Chattanooga Police Officer Giuseppe Troncone didn’t try to follow a 49-year-old man who tried to escape by driving his Cadillac on railroad tracks in the Pineville area, according to an affidavit filed in Hamilton County Criminal Sessions Court. Instead, he soon caught up with Alvin Donell Davis just by driving along East Elmwood Drive toward the “cloud of smoke coming from the ... (click for more)

Baylor School Hires Tennessee Wesleyan’s Billy Berry As New Varsity Baseball Coach

Baylor School has announced that Tennessee Wesleyan’s Billy Berry , the 2012 NAIA National Coach of the Year, is the new varsity coach for the Red Raider baseball program.   Berry replaces Gene Etter, who announced his retirement this spring after 41 seasons as the Red Raiders head coach. “The quality of this applicant pool was fantastic. Billy is a national ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Advances To National Amateur Championship

The Chattanooga Football Club beat the Maryland Bays 2-0 Friday night in the second semifinal game of the 2014 National Amateur Championships here in Chattanooga. Chattanooga advances to play the Michigan Bucks Saturday night at 7:30 in the championship. The two teams are competing for the Hank Steinbrecher Trophy which is awarded to the top amateur team in the nation.   ... (click for more)