Obedience and the Boys of Summer

When I was a kid we lived about two blocks from my maternal grandparents.  We called them “Mom and Pop” and it seems like we spent more than half the summer at their house. 

My mother, my brother, my sister, and me would walk down to “Mom and Pop’s house” and hang out there all day.  If the day was rainy, we’d hang out inside, playing games or just listening to the grown-ups talk.  When the weather was good is when the fun really started.

Often dodge ball, or apple fights, or other regulated violence was part of the fun, but it was all harmless—we’d get sore or even bruised, but not really injured playing in their yard.

There were also games that didn’t lead to any bumps or bruises except for maybe my ego being bruised.  My brother was a far better athlete than I was, so he would often win any game we played “going away”.  I couldn’t coordinate my right and left hands to play our Atari so I just wasn’t going to compete with him.

One day we were playing “Whiffle ball”, the “baseball” game that uses the balls with holes in it.  It was a hot day, and I mean Indiana hot.  We played a number of innings, “pitcher’s hand” and with “ghost runners”.  I was a little guy, probably six years old, and was beginning to grow tired.

As I grew tired, I got hot so I took my shirt off.  I was pitching and my fatigue was preventing me from pitching very well.  He was getting frustrated at my bad pitching, so he told me to move up which I obediently did.  After three or four more bad pitches (we didn’t have walks in the Mom and Pop’s house league) he moved me up one more time.

The next pitch was perfect, and my brother got a perfect swing at it.  It was a line drive right back at me.  The entire universe seemed to go silent, and before I could react the ball hit me right in the middle of my chest.  I began to fall in what seemed like slow motion, a tree felled by the fatal, final swing of a lumberjack’s axe.

Obedience sometimes hurts.  It often is outside of what we think is comfortable.  Otherwise we’d do it naturally and it wouldn’t be obedience.   But so often Christ’s teaching on obedience was more about helping other people than about living pious lives.  I don’t know if helping your brother drive a plastic ball into your chest is what Jesus had in mind, but I know that we will all have fuller lives and make the world a better place if we are obedient to Him and live in His will.

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