Friday, September 17, 2010
A DIVINE APPOINTMENT
A man wearing brown pants with beige dress shirt, sleeves rolled up to the elbows, stocked the cracker shelves as I swerved around the corner with my grocery cart headed for the saltines.
“Hi, how are you today?” I said, sweeping past him.
“Good, how ‘bout you?” he countered with southern drawl while shoving a box of Ritz into an available spot. An overhead light beamed off the baseball-sized bald spot on the top of his head.
“Oh, fine, just fine.” I said, torn between scanning the shelves for my selection and exchanging cordialities.
Chattering on as if he hadn’t talked to anyone all day, he spoke of everything from the weather to his first grandchild due the end of October.
A bell sounded in my head. This was a topic near and dear to my heart, for my husband and I now had five grandchildren, the latest born in our home only weeks earlier, and the sixth on his way the beginning of October.
The man’s glasses slid down his nose as he reached to unpack another box. His wiry, sandy-colored hair stuck out over his forehead like a visor. Somewhat stocky, his belly loped over his belt when he squatted to straighten the cracker boxes on the bottom shelf. His daughter, only nineteen, would give birth to a son, he told me, lining up a row of Ritz like new army recruits.
“I was just getting used to the empty nest, and now this—I can hardly believe I’m going to be a grandfather.”
I had been where he was four years ago. With two weddings in one year and two babies the next, I was still gulping for air.
“I know what you mean,” I assured, lamely glancing at him one second and squinting at the saltines the next.
“But you have to let them go. You do the best you can raising them, then you just have to let them go,” he said, forcibly brushing his hands together to illustrate his words.
I inched my cart down the aisle, but paused out of politeness when he continued talking.
“I wonder, though, young people today probably won’t discipline their kids the way I was brought up. It was a trip to the woodshed for me. Yep, I learned a thing or two with the strap.”
Nodding, I assessed whether to stick around and humor this stock boy—well, man—with more of my presence or make my getaway.
Was this a divine appointment the Lord had placed in my way on this sunny September morn?
As we conversed more about the need for discipline in our culture, a story popped into my head.
“You know, you’re right, discipline is so important for children. I remember a speaker I listened to once share how he decided to teach his children a significant lesson after they had misbehaved one day.”
The man’s eyes flitted to my face as he reached for yet another large cardboard box full of crackers.
“The father told his two children to come into the bedroom. Once there, he pulled his shirt off, handed them each a leather belt, leaned over the mattress, and told them to whip his back with the belts.”
A whisper of a frown passed over the man’s face as he cocked his head to listen.
“Well, as you might expect, the children were totally confused. ‘Daddy,’ they said in unison, ‘why do you want us to spank you? We’re the ones who did wrong.’”
“‘Yes, you did wrong,’ the father stated, “’but I want you to whip me. I will take your punishment.’”
“’No, Daddy, we can’t let you do that!’”
“By now big crocodile tears were inching their way down the children’s cheeks.
“’Please, Daddy, we can’t do this!’
“The father insisted, and the children struck him with the belts, over and over again at his command. His back, layered with red stripes, pulsed with pain. His children dropped to the floor weeping uncontrollably.
“The father turned, stooped and stretched his arms around his broken children. ‘That, my children, is what Jesus did for us. He took the punishment that we deserve when He died on the cross.’
“The children never forgot their father’s lesson, nor did they ever require a spanking again.”
With eyebrows arched like Howdy-Dowdy, the man stood frozen for a second, “Yep, that’s a powerful lesson, all right.” Shaking his head, he retrieved more cracker boxes and resumed shelving.
“Well, you have a good day now; nice talking with you,” I said, gripping the cart handle.
“Yeah, you too. Have a good one.” He waved a hand, signaling the end of the conversation. Yet, something in his eyes indicated he would be thinking on our visit for some time to come.