Sweat the Small Stuff

When I was younger I hit my sister with a baseball bat. In the head. It was all unintentional of course, but the consequence of my actions were represented by both the immediate screaming that ensued and the multicolored bruise that developed on side of her forehead. I remember feeling devastated for what I had done, but it was an accident and you know what they say about accidents. They happen. Eventually my sister after some tears even came to forgive my lack of peripheral vision. Case closed problem solved.

But one of the following days I remember accompanying my father and sister to the bank. The bruise was in full bloom on my sister's face--a nasty reminder to me of my careless swinging a few days prior. The very nice bank lady looked down over the counter and asked what any human being with a soul would ask when seeing a small, sweet girl with a mammoth wound on her face. "What happened to your sister?!"

Shoot. The question was directed towards me. How could I, as a very good boy who never did anything wrong, effectively communicate to this very nice lady that it was I who had inflicted this wound? With the brutal crack of a baseball bat no less?

I nervously looked to the floor and looked back at her and then back to the floor trying to ignore the question. The bank lady kept pressing..."Did she fall down and hit her face on the floor?" Well, I guess you could say that she did fall down--after I clocked her. I just nodded in passive agreement: "Yeah she fell down.”

Was it a lie? Who is to say, right? You can't really blame me as I was still ashamed of what I had done. It is a lot to ask of a kid at age 5 or 6 to take ownership of an action that he did not even intentionally commit, and it was an accident after all. So what difference would it have made if I had told the truth verbatim? I quickly forgot about the exchange and followed my family back into the minivan.

Not two miles away, Dad somehow got news that I told the bank lady that the bruise on my sister’s face was due to her "falling down." The minivan screeched to a halt. In the middle of the road. It did a three point turn. "Dad, where are we going?" I asked.

His cold hearted response: "We are going back to the bank. You are going to tell the lady that you lied--and what really happened to your sister."

Seriously, Dad? Oh the shame! I cried. I begged. "Please, no...I'll do anything!" Not only did I have to tell all the ladies at the bank that I hit my sister with a bat (making a scene in the process), but I have to tell them that I LIED. And with every petition I made for my dad to stop, the MPHs only rose higher and higher. His judgment cometh and it cometh swiftly.

My memory gets pretty fuzzy from that point on (no question a sign of a traumatizing experience). I do know however that I did tell the bank ladies the truth with all the shame in the world, through tears and sobs. I confessed my lie, and they were surprisingly understanding, perhaps even a little shocked at the oddity of the situation. Life went on, but the memory of that day has stuck with me ever since.

To this day, the lesson of my Dad's strictness on truth telling is a reminder to me that sin is sin. A little half lie is a sin. A sarcastic tone toward my mother is a sin. Playing computer games instead of cleaning my room when asked is a sin. And despite what our world says (and even many churches) sin is serious, yes even the small ones; and my dad’s somewhat frequent discipline was a very effective teacher.

While the modern age we live in mocks such stringent oppression of rules at the expense of self-expression and freedom, Christians are Biblically prescribed to sweat the small stuff. Ephesians 4:29 warns us to not let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths. And later in Ephesians 5:3 Paul adds, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s people.” Not a hint! The Christian call after all is a call to holiness (1 Peter 1:16). It is a call to repent of our sins, to literally put it to death, and to allow the Holy Spirit to change us into the image of Christ Jesus.

So may we pray that sin (both the big and the small) would become sensitive again. May it cripple us and drive us to our knees: from even that indulgent lustful thought to the menial gossip session. May our hearts be quick to mourn, not over the consequences of our actions, but over the sin itself, knowing that we have offended the very heart of our heavenly Father. Though He is thankfully faithful and just to forgive us our sins through the sacrifice of Christ Jesus, we could all do well not to make light of them.


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