Smooth words may hide a wicked heart,
just as a pretty glaze covers a clay pot.
Proverbs 26:23 (NLT)
This past week I portrayed one of our town’s founders, H.P. Scholte, in a one act play at our local Opera House. In preparation for portraying the man (whom I’ve now played in three separate productions) I’ve done plenty of research into his past and his story. Scholte was a fascinating man. The son of a wealthy industrialist in Holland, he began as an art student but soon gave up his paintbrush for the pulpit. He was a brilliant scholar, a gifted preacher, and a charismatic leader. Having run afoul of the state church of the Netherlands (for which he was imprisoned multiple times), Scholte convinced nearly 800 of his followers to invest their life savings with him, accompany him on a perilous journey to the American frontier and build an entire town where there was nothing but prairie grass.
As I read accounts and letters of his followers to the new world, two very different pictures emerge. Many saw Scholte as a charlatan and scam-artist. They were convinced that he took advantage of his followers, used their money for his personal gain and lied to them about the prosperity of American before leading them to hell on earth. Others never wavered in their trust of Scholte and his vision. They followed him faithfully. I have always been amazed at the two very different men described by Scholte’s followers. It begs the question: Was he a vessel of God, or was he a glazed pot described in the proverb above? I have been so captivated by the matter that I even wrote my own one act play that exploring the question.
Fast forward 160 years. Our community gathers each year to celebrate its heritage and tens of thousands of people gather from around the world to experience it. Look around and you will find a prosperous small town with a thriving economy, a quality educational system and a deep appreciation for the values of family and faith. Scholte’s vision and commitment have been realized. He proved to be a useful vessel who accomplished much for which countless residents owe their thanks through many generations. Scholte wasn’t perfect, to be sure, but time and reality have proven that he wasn’t and empty, glazed crack-pot.
I look back over the years and think of the occasional times that I have been accused of things. Anyone in any position of leadership will experience this. Many have looked at me and accused me of being a glazed pot. It’s never fun when your motives and character are questioned and maligned. In these times I think about people like Scholte. I can’t control what others think and say. I can’t change the perception of others. I can only continue to follow the path and do my best each day to live out the course God has laid for me.
Time reveals truth.
- Everyone’s a Critic (and, Appropriately, Should Be) (tomvanderwell.wordpress.com)
- TULIP TIME: Weather Won’t Dampen Events (whotv.com)
- Union Street Players production “Letters from Pella”
- Pella Tulip Time