RITE OF PASSAGE: The grass is always greener
As humans, we have a tendency to believe what others have is usually better than . . . ours. As I mentioned recently, one of the highlights of my young life was spending time at my grandparents’ farm outside Miami, Mo. Like many small communities, Miami has a street running straight through the center of town with the Baptist church on one side and the Methodist church on the other. Actually, the Post Office faces the Baptist church and the Methodist church stands to its right.
I always thought the Methodists had a fancier church than we did. Their building was made of fancy bricks; the Baptist church looked like the typical white, painted box. One family I knew attended both: the mother and daughters went to the Methodist church; the father and sons got out of the same car and walked across the street to join us Baptists in worship. I don’t know if Scripture would classify that family as “unequally yoked” or not, but their situation taught me the wisdom of marrying on the same side of the street.
I saw another benefit to being a Methodist, though. Every Sunday, their service dismissed earlier than ours. I guess they didn’t sing all the stanzas of “Just as I Am.” A rumor once went around that the Methodists didn’t even give an invitation. Deep in his heart, every Baptist preacher always believes one more person needs to make a decision. And he always hears the Holy Spirit tell him to sing one more verse. Every week, we went home wondering who that one unrepentant sinner was. By the end of Sunday dinner, we’d have it figured out.
As a child, I also thought the Methodists had more money than the Baptists. They dressed better. And I knew our preacher was poor. Every Sunday, someone had to haul him and his family home and feed them. Back then, the Baptist pastors always had more children than the Methodists. When no one else wanted to feed our preacher and his family, we usually did. We always had enough, but sometimes, the slices of apple pie got pretty thin.
At that age, I was sure there were many more advantages to being Methodist than Baptist. Since my parents and grandparents were all staunch Baptists, I also knew that crossing the street meant losing my salvation . . . or at least my Sunday dinner.
As children, we look out through the windows of our small souls and make observations about the world around us. Some of these are true. In our town, the Methodists were better dressed than the Baptists. And of course I wouldn’t have lost my salvation if I had crossed the street, but my parents probably wouldn’t have welcomed me to the Sunday dinner table, either.
Have you noticed how different things look after you become an adult? Not long ago, I told my sons about a house we had in the country when I was a boy. It had plenty of land where my brothers and I could run and play baseball. Several years ago, I went back to see the old country home and drove right past it. The house was not nearly as big as I remembered and the extra land was just a vacant lot (now filled with a house and lawn). Scripture tells us, “When I was a child . . . I thought like a child” (1 Cor. 13:11). We have to adjust our childish thoughts and ideas to the realities of adulthood.
When your children are small, they believe you are the best dad or mom in the world. As they grow, they begin to discover a few of your faults . . . and remind you of them regularly. One of the most difficult times in my life was when my sons discovered their dad wasn’t perfect. I still remember the look of disappointment in their eyes. It took a while to work through those things, but today we have a deep relationship that allows us to love one another, faults and all.
This week, I will be blessed to spend a week of vacation with my entire family: my two grown sons, their incredible wives, and my wife (the most beautiful woman in the world). I am sure we will rediscover each other’s faults. But I pray we will look not through the eyes of our childhood but through those of the Father who sent His Son to die for us “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8).
And who knows? We might even take a risk while on our vacation and cross the street to a Methodist church.