There were two faces permeating social media and news outlets across West Tennessee and the rest of the nation this week.
Most of us met little Noah Chamberlin and Sheriff Blair Weaver as we scrolled through Facebook and watched the story of Noah’s disappearance and the ensuing search to bring him home unfold before the world. Noah’s shining eyes and sweet smile frozen in time melted our hearts, and Sheriff Weaver’s gaze into the lenses of dozens of cameras hungry for answers he wanted so desperately to provide incensed us and fueled a fire most of us never realized simmered within. We were watching the face of a man who had scooped up Noah and his family in his arms. He stood before the world day after day holding them tightly and sheltering them with a promise.
As the hours turned into days, we began to pay closer attention to our newsfeeds and notifications, and finding Noah became everyone’s concern whether they made their way to Pinson to search by foot or cried silent tears over their own babies as they prayed. Watching his picture circulate and seeing Sheriff Weaver’s ever-growing determination reflected in the weariness of his voice fanned the flames.
Noah was the face of hope, and Sheriff Weaver made us believe in him. The more tired he grew, the closer he held Noah’s family. The tighter he held them, the more our pride swelled for him. We never had to see their faces or hear their voices to know they were being strengthened by his dogged efforts. We could feel it.
We watched our handheld screens, and the inevitable happened. The devil sent his advocates...in droves. Rumors swirled like the cold winds that stung the faces of the men and women who searched beneath the beam of the helicopter’s searchlight. Around and around the bitter words were flung while Noah’s forces were growing. They came for Noah, and they searched with Sheriff Weaver. Volunteers and law enforcement stood tall but tired and saw only Noah--his smile--his eyes--his family. They heard only Sheriff Weaver and his unyielding faith.
Sheriff Weaver, though, we continued to watch. As questions were tossed hard and fast in his direction, he fired back with all the tenacity we would want from a man hellbent on finding a missing child. Noah was his priority. That, alone, radiated from him even in the most exhausted of his hours. When he stood faced with inquiries that made us clench our own fists in white-hot fury, we cheered. When he walked away from having fed the microphones that waited greedily at the podium, we prayed for Noah. And when we saw him break, we prayed for him.
A promise was made. A promise was kept.
Noah made it home. He was scooped up, this time, in the arms of the Lord. Before he left, though, he performed a mighty task for a little guy. He taught some all-consuming lessons in love and promises. Much has been written over the last several hours speaking to the good Noah has done his community and our nation, and I cannot say it any more eloquently than the people who have written before me.
Sheriff Weaver, though he may not yet realize it, accomplished some amazing feats of his own. He brought Noah home, true to his word. We aren’t meant to understand why it was in the Lord’s arms he came, but he brought him home nonetheless.
This is a man who showed a nation how to fight odds. With everything against him, including the unpredictable winter weather of West Tennessee, he never relinquished hope or strayed from his vow. To the end he stood with his arms about Noah and his family.
Not everyone can keep a promise, but Sheriff Weaver surely did.
“Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.”