“One of the first things
for which we have to pray
is true insight into our condition.”
— Olive Wyon
Looking back on six decades of life in the rear-view mirror, I can see incidents in my past more clearly. I’m better able to identify the “whys” of many situations that occurred in my past: the immature emotions and naïve reasoning, the good intentions gone painfully wrong, the pressure endured by well-meaning people who caved to societal expectations and behaved in ways that were not only stupid, but generated life-long emotional scars.
I am absolutely convinced that my parents would have given their lives for me at any given moment during my childhood, because they adored and loved me so unselfishly. But I have to ask: Why did so many individuals representing that adult generation practice washing a child’s mouth out with soap for saying a “bad word”? Why were their actions and voices so unyielding when they tried to correct incorrect behavior?
It was BECAUSE the culture of the post World War II era demanded that children be raised that way. Discipline first. Tempered guidance second. The adult in the scenario was always right. The child was always wrong — even when the grown-up was actually the one at fault.
In the early 1960s, I realized that my two brothers and I were the lucky kids in our neighborhood. We were rarely forced to “clean our plates” at meal time. We didn’t “get the belt” as did so many of the other children on our block, and there was no cursing in our home … period. A lot of the disciplinary techniques applied by other military dads and their “obedient” wives seemed barbaric to the three of us at a time, when it was common for adults in authority to wield punishment with vengeance. Our parents managed to counterbalance the weight of discipline with encouragement and praise.
As adults (and parents ourselves), “the boys” and I were able to laugh at some of the stuff we did that obviously — from a parent’s perspective — had to be squashed. Like the time my immature brothers — merely 22 months apart in age — decided to take advantage of being left home alone for a few hours. The two pulled out their B-B guns and “went shooting” in the back yard.
Of course, they knew there would be stern consequences if Dad found out about their foolish behavior. However, they had reasoned that they were just going to shoot at targets on the ground. So Dad would be okay with that. And besides, he would never know…. Right?
Unfortunately, fate dictated that as the boys exited the house, a raven would perch on the (now ancient) TV antennae that was erected on the roof of our house, and it didn’t take long for the wannabe hunters to agree about what to do next. They would shoot at the bird, which would be okay because it was obvious that they weren’t capable of hitting it. So they took aim … AND FIRED!
To their absolute horror the raven fell over. But its feet still firmly gripped the antennae! Pure panic set in. There was no way for them to undo what they had done, because the wrath of Mom would fall upon them if they climbed up on the roof! As they watched the limp, upside down bird body sway back and forth, my brothers knew they were in BIG trouble.
Unlike my brothers — in so many ways — I was not prone to misbehavior. But I did have my moments, and I remember one event that also featured “stuck feet.”
During my tweens and teens, I had very small feet. At that time, there was only one shoe store in our little town, and it didn’t always have suitable footwear in stock. So during occasional trips to visit my grandparents in the suburbs of Los Angeles, my mother would take me shoe shopping. The shoes that fit me often exceeded her limited budget, but she was determined that I would not slosh around in ill-fitted shoes.
The result was always the same. The fashionable shoes that I had my heart set on were never available in my size, so I would end up with “ugly” ones, like the black leather, laced flats that tightened to fit my feet perfectly. I hated them.
I was in eighth grade that spring, and because my family — like so many others — had only one car, I had to walk from my junior high campus to my home, about a mile away. I would often take a shortcut across a field and down the train tracks to make the trek seem less daunting. Ordinarily the commute was uneventful, but there had been a rainstorm earlier that day as I set out, my arms laden with a stack of heavy text books.
I was almost at the intersection where I would leave the tracks and walk the paved street to my house, when I clumsily stepped off the rail into a bog of squishy, adobe mud. Anyone who has ever experienced the unique texture of adobe clay will “get it” when I explain that my black leather, snuggly laced shoes were literally sucked off my feet as I stumbled forward. My very expensive, totally ugly shoes remained suctioned in place. I could feel the cold, mushy mud squishing through my nylon stockings and caking between my toes.
At first I was struck with the kind of fear that can be remembered for a lifetime. My shoes were ruined, and my mom was going to be SO MAD! Oh my gosh. I was in such big trouble!
Then it hit me. My horrible, awful, embarrassing shoes were ruined … HALLELUJAH!
I was not a drama queen. Even summoning an effective poker face was challenging, but this was a truly desperate situation. Frantically, I pried my now reddish-brown shoes from the muck and plotted my next move. A particularly disgusting puddle caught my eye, and I prudently pushed my stockinged feet into the sludge.
Contrary to my usually stellar character, I worked up a good cry before finishing the journey and standing before my mother on the front step of our home. Looking as pitiful as I possibly could, I offered my edited version of how it all happened.
One look at me and Mom simply could not muster the anger that I had expected from her over the unfortunate loss of those relentlessly sought, sacrificially bought, abhorrently ugly shoes.
Just as I had hoped.
“Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent,
and discerning if he holds his tongue.”
A RUST REMOVER …
On occasion, a bit of drama is justified – but deception will stick with you emotionally. Confess your past and current shortcomings to our compassionate Lord and try hard to forgive yourself. Then get on with your journey.