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GUEST COLUMN: Like Daniel, I knew its name

Is there a Daniel in your life?

There is, was, in mine. I have long lost contact with Daniel. Life, geography, time and ambition have distanced me from him. His life, personality, friendship, his impact on me remains in my memory and my person. Though separated now, we are linked in eternity.

Daniel was my friend. I knew he loved me and cared for me. I did not understand in those days the implication of his friendship. His presence in my life defined society’s enduring cleft. He was black, poor, ignorant but wise, and I, though middle class, was by comparison educated and privileged. The divide between us was as black and white as our color. His ineffable friendship inheres my perspective today.

In my formative years, I had heroes, mentors, teachers, parents and coaches who played a pivotal role in my character development. In my idol worship years, I looked to these people to guide me through my confusion. Then, there was Daniel, as a shadow, silent, present, reaching, assuring as God’s shade, nudging me toward light though I did not know it then.

Our imagination dreams our life. Our ends seek means. A Daniel awakens us to thoughts and realities unrealized in books or aspirations or heroes. A Daniel in one’s life will not provide the obvious but will ground us, live within us, undergird each step and remind us what is right and true.

Daniel’s impact on me makes me hesitate, taps me on the shoulder and reminds me of a person’s value, if not to society, to God. For all Daniel suffered, his shadow, tall, remained in my mind and heart. He was as much a compass in my life as dad or coach. If my mentors were there to say, “do this” or “be this,” Daniel stood silently to say, “never be this, never do this.” I listened, eventually.

When I read the Bible, I hear the same message. “Do this, be this, but never be this,” Jesus says. God’s word is a dividing line, tapping me on the shoulder the same way Daniel’s long ago friendship did and does. I did not always listen and sometimes forgot, but Daniel’s gravity in my life was truth reaching toward light.

An anonymous work, “The Cloud of Unknowing” says, “As God, he is creator and dispenser of time; as man, he consciously mastered time; as God and man, he is the rightful judge of you and your use of time. Bind yourself to Jesus, therefore, in faith and love, so that belonging to him you may share all he has and enter the fellowship of those who love him.”

Grace found me, bound me to Jesus by his love. But first, there was Daniel whose friendship reminded me grace comes without boundaries and judgments and preconceptions.

And when grace came, I knew its name.

Deck Cheatham has been a golf professional for more than 40 years. He lives with his family in Dalton. Contact him at