On a hot summer day when I was about 10 yrs old, my sister and I decided to break out one of the greatest toys ever invented, the Slip n Slide / Wet Banana. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a 25’ long sheet of thin plastic and you attach a hose to one end and it sprays water across the plastic to create a water slide giving you hours of fun and amusement. So Shannon and I rig up the Wet Banana and go next door to invite our friends over.
After a few trial runs down the slide, I determined that I was going to get a big running start and see how fast I could go. Well I went so fast that I slid down the 25’ slide and about another 10’ through the grass on my stomach. I had cuts all over my chest and stomach. Grass was sticking to me. I had grass stuck in my shorts. Before I knew what happened, a large expletive came flying out of my mouth and traveled through space and time, through my kitchen window and into my mothers ear. In exactly 3.2 sec’s she was yelling at me from the back door to get in the house. I ended up being grounded for the whole week.
The following Saturday I can hear my neighbors laughing outside as they were playing in their backyard. My mom tells me that I can go out and play with them. During the week i was grounded my neighbors had gotten their own slip and slide, so I got this incredible idea. We joined both slip n slides together, so we’re talking about 50’ ft of neon yellow, glossy, wet, sweet amusement. Even my parents and my friend’s parents had come out to enjoy themselves. 90 degrees outside, not a cloud in the sky and none of us could care less because we had a hose, a hill, and 50 ft. wet banana. It was amazing! A child’s dream.
And like all dream’s, it had to end. In my case, sooner than everyone else’s.
It was my turn to trip down the slide. I got a big running start and had made up my mind I was gonna go down on my butt, feet first. I hit the slide hard and fast and then something hit me even harder. It was my dad. Not sure to this day what he was thinking. At 9 or 10 y.o. I must have weighed 60 lbs soaking wet. He hit me and his added weight and momentum propelled us well past the edge of the slide and once again Craig gets grass burns, cuts and a wedgie that would take all night to remove. I lost my mind. My dad was yucking it up and I think that must have set me off. I stood up, kicked him in the shin and yelled, “that Hurt $#@!*!. I was immediately hauled off to my bedroom where I spent the next week because I was grounded again. My 10 y.o. brain just didn’t seem to yet be able to grasp the concept of foul language leads to beatings and groundings.
A few years later, I was maybe in 7th grade by this point, it was summertime and my friends had decided to come over to my house after my parents left for work. Normally I wouldn’t care, but they came into my room at 9 am and woke me up by jumping on my bed. C’mon.. who does that? We’re kids and it’s summertime. I had a good 2-3 hrs of sleep left in me. So I started the day off a little bent. From 9 am till 2 ish that afternoon, my friends had not left my house and really had not left my bedroom. They just hung out playing Nintendo and destroying my room. Early afternoon, something in me just snapped.
I honestly don’t remember what the final straw was but it didn’t matter by this point. As loud as I could I yelled at them, “Get the _____ out of my room and stay the _____ out!” And they did, they all started getting up and leaving with weird looks on their faces. Not a face of anger or “what’s your problem”, but a look of fear. You see, apparently my dad decided to come home from work early and they all must have seen him pull in the driveway and didn’t say anything. So as I followed my friends out of my bedroom and turn towards the kitchen, I saw my dad standing there staring at me as my friends walked double time out the back door and ran away. I tried my best to play it off as though he had not heard me. I said “hi” as I tried to walk past him into the kitchen and he stopped me. He looked me dead in the eye and said, “your _______, get the_____ back in your room.”
I was dead. I knew it. I didn’t know how or when exactly but I knew my life would soon be taken from me. And then I received the worst punishment ever. I had to sit in my room and wait to receive the punishment of my life. So I waited and waited. It seemed like forever. Hours went by. I thought maybe he was fashioning a homemade cat o’ nine tails. I mean my imagination was going wild with all these exotic ways I was going to receive the beating of my life.
When my mom got home I remember her disappointment when she heard the news. I remember them kind of being at a loss as to what to do with me. I got grounded again. This time for the remainder of the summer. I couldn’t play Nintendo. I couldn’t go outside. Friends couldn’t come over. I lost my summer because I didn’t learn from previous mistakes.
Truth be told, I continued cussing for years after that. Grounding me didn’t teach me not to cuss. It just taught me not to cuss around my parents or anyone that would relay my colorful language to them. My problem was not my colorful language; that was just a symptom of some deeper issues I was hiding. Jesus taught that “from the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matt.12:34 My real problem wasn’t external. Nothing was going to keep me from cussing except a total heart transplant.
Consider this… What happens if you pull out a weed but you don’t get the root? We might be able to change some things in people so that they suit our personal preferences better, but if we don’t get to the Root, if we don’t go to the heart of the matter, the weeds will keep growing back. Sometimes we want to change the way a person treats us or others. Sometimes we want to change their vocabulary. Sometimes we wish we could change their inflated egos and the way they parade themselves around like they were the greatest thing on earth.
“The best way to deal with sin is not to attempt reform, but to adore the savior.” ~Calvin Miller
At the heart of holiness is adoration which pours out of a grateful person effortlessly. Holiness calls us to be set apart in the way we live but it equally calls us to display the unconditional love of God by drawing near to those lost in sin, following the example given us in Christ. We have been called to transform lives, to create a kingdom of faithful worshipers, and to heal and restore a broken world, yet too often I think our course of action is to change a person’s behavior rather than addressing the cries of their heart.
“Christianity is not an ethical code but a love-filled relationship aimed at making us professional lovers of God.” ~Brennan Manning
Again, the heart of holiness is adoration. Address the heart and the behavior will be altered as well. You try and change the way they look and act and the way they think and speak so that they will blend into your christian circles better but what have you really done for them? You have taught them a cheap, impotent version of Christianity, separate from the gospel that will give birth to nothing.
1 Peter 3:15-16 “always be prepared to give a reason to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have, but do this with gentleness and respect.”
You have probably heard the cliché, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” Our job is not to make them drink but rather to make them thirsty so they will want to drink and Peter urges us to do this by sharing our faith with gentleness and respect. If you want to make a change in people’s lives and ultimately walk with them before God, then you need to address people’s hearts first, not their behavior, and do so with all the compassion and gentleness of the Holy Spirit or they will continue the same bad habits and making the same mistakes and same bad choices (Proverbs 26:11).