I saw the three boys in the church foyer with their mother. Now they were men. They looked older and smiled less than the last time I had seen them. They were all looking at me to see if I recognized them. Would I say anything? acknowledge them? Their mother was oblivious to the dynamic of her sons here in this place. It was Christmas eve service early afternoon. I smiled and greeted them and said “it’s been 10 years hasn’t it?” They gathered around as if it were 20 years earlier, ages five to 10. Smiles came. Mom noticed and trusted their smiles. A flood of memories disjointed with what could have been for these boys.
55 years earlier little Johnny and I had parallel lives in many ways. Being Johnny was a few years older, I was able to buy his abused three speed bike from him so he could get a 10 speed. I wanted a faster bike to get to work 5 miles to mow the fairways on the local 9 hole golf course. A couple years later I bought Johnnies 40 pound recurve bow to hunt deer as Jonny didn’t ever use it. I used it. Three years later I talked dad into getting Johnnies motorcycle that he was selling (don’t get me going on motorcycle stories). I looked up to Johnny and his best friend Jim until one day I didn’t anymore. The parallel was gone, pathways in life changed. I changed and veered a hard right from John’s path.
John and I both attended kids club, church and youth group. My life was being greatly influenced. I remember the day clearly when my eyes were opened. It was a church spring clean-up day on a fine Saturday and all was well until John and friend Jim found the candy bar stash for kids club awards. They were the coveted treat earned by one of 4 teams each week. The team with the most points got a candy bar. Winning games, memorizing bible verses and finishing work book sections gave these candy bars gold medal status. When John and Jim found and took the candy bars, I was perplexed. It was wrong on principle of stealing but also on trampling the sacred ground of the winners circle. The worst part is it seemed there was no decision to it, like a dog finding a scrap of meat under the table or a cat running across a mouse.
However John got this way, I wanted no part of it.
John’s three little boys liked me. They were not raised as well as John was. They began going to church with mom, only once in awhile, until she left. Kids club was their life line but that fell away as John had fallen into drinking too much (too many meat scraps under the table I guess). I saw them in their small boat on the lake and would tell them what the fish were biting on. They loved to tell me their fish stories when I would see them at a men’s breakfast or on the street. They would gather around.
Down through the years I grew into leadership in most jobs I had. John drifted through life working here and there and getting fired was a pattern. He tried to raise the boys with all his might. He really did. He loved those boys. Evidently strong drink loved him more and finally won. He died running out of money to build his dream house. While he drank his sons in their teens were attempting electrical, plumbing and Sheetrocking themselves.
Don’t ever think the taking of a candy bar is no big deal
It’s been 10 years. It appears the boys recognize they have some decisions to make. There will always be candy bar finds; meat scraps if you will. The boys will have to decide if they are going to just be religious or if they will grow in a relationship with God who will set them free. I still see that hunger in their eyes if I look closely. I would like to think I saw it.
We walked into the church for a candle light Christmas eve service. The 3 boys and I and a hundred more people would hear(among other things) a talk given by my son, whose life parallels mine in so many ways more than Johns. Who has also had candy bar choices in life, who challenged us to know God, hear God’s voice and obey with some great personal stories. The boys are similar age to my son, their paths are different. I am so proud of my son’s path and the thousands of choices to get there (now he has three small sons becoming??)
When I was 15 I gave a talk to about 30 of my peers about knowing God and following Him. John sat in the back snickering with a couple others. I was not hurt other than hurting for him. These were my thoughts as my son was speaking 56 years later, as the boys and their mom were listening. What if they really heard? What if 2022 will find them veering off the parallel path shown them?
Sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny.
Psalm 16:11 “You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”
May we not help anybody find their way (they already have that). Bring them into the winners circle, God’s way