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Heart Matters

"The law tells me how crooked I am. Grace comes along and straightens me out." D. L. Moody

I grew up in a conservative community which some called Fundagelical. I realize the term may be a new one for you, so let me define it by saying that some in our congregation felt we shouldn't evangelize the Amish because they dressed a bit too flashy.

We did not play cards (except Rook), attend movies (except The Hiding Place), or yell "Shoot!" (except during church basketball games). Most of our parents enjoyed George Beverly Shea's music until the percussion section got carried away, and we were taught to dance only when shot at with live ammunition.

I almost feel guilty mentioning it, but I had a great deal of fun growing up Fundagelical. Oh sure, there were negative side effects. For instance, there was the memory loss. And there was, uh...I can't remember the other thing. Seriously, certain side effects do linger. For one thing, I grew up with the strong impression that Christianity was largely outward. Though I often heard that works weren't the ticket to heaven, we found out early that it was our actions which gained approval (or disapproval) down here. The result was a tendency to fake my faith.

I also grew up believing God wanted me miserable. Don't ask me why. I guess I saw it in the faces of those who came to church looking like breakfast was a bowl of lemons with vinegar on the side. God's will for my life, I thought, included serving him in the remotest part of India married to the girl who sat at the front of our class squealing on everyone. And so, reluctant to trust God with everything I had, I decided to pursue adventure elsewhere.

You didn't have to look far. For a mischievous Fundagelical child, it only took a spark to get a scandal going.

One fine Wednesday our dreams came true. Discarded in a deserted ditch was the desire of our hearts: a pack of Player's Filter Tip, unopened and beckoning. Stripping the plastic off, we divided the pack evenly. Ten apiece. And we sat in the tall weeds inhaling every last one of them. Right down to the filters.

After staggering back to the nonsmoking zone, my friend was caught yellow-handed by his mother. But I was older. I was wiser. I knew that as ye smoke, so shall ye reek. Plus my brother Tim had told me the punishment for smoking in our community: "They cut your lips off." So I slipped silently up to our medicine cabinet and found a can of spray deodorant. I finished it. Then I pulled out a full tube of toothpaste. I finished that, too. Finally I was able to approach my parents.

And that night I crawled into bed, a satisfied smile stuck to my face. Boy, are you brilliant, I thought. No one will ever know. My mother entered the room then and sat on my bed, sniffing. "How did it taste?" she asked.

"Uh...supper? Very good, Mom. Thank you. Thank you very much."

"When I was a little girl," she continued, without skipping a beat, "Grandpa let me smoke his pipe. I didn't much like it. How about you?"

She could have cut my lips off. Or spanked me. Or quoted Scripture. She could have reminded me that no amount of toothpaste or deodorant will cover our sins. Instead she leaned over and kissed me gently on the forehead.

"I'll never smoke again," I said. Then, "Mom, how did you know?"

"Well, Son," she said, tucking the covers in around my shoulders, "sometimes 10-year-old boys forget that their mothers have friends, too."

And I heard my father's voice, coming from the bathroom. "Hey, has anyone seen the deodorant?"

Looking back on my childhood, I'm thankful for rules. I'm thankful I learned early about the seriousness of sin. But I'm glad I was shown more. I'm glad I was shown grace.

Today I have three children of my own and I'm spending more time on my knees than ever before.

I pray that they will discover early that rules are necessary, that Christians are human, and that God's will is the very best thing. I prayed that they will love the Lord Jesus with everything they've got.

But mostly I prayed that they will breathe deeply of grace. And discover, as I have, that we travel a little lighter when God's grace carries us along.

Adapted from Making Life Rich Without Any Money. Copyright 1998 by Phil Callaway. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon 97402. Used by permission.

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