5:38pm Friday, August 7, 2015
I just had a very interesting incident with 6-year-old Gabriela who has not yet been with us a full month. I had taken her, her elder sister Josselyn and 7-year-old Josue on a long walk around our neighborhood delivering plates of chocolate cake with encouraging hand-written notes to our neighbors as a goodwill gesture.
Throughout the admittedly long but not too-long hike around our neighborhood, Gabriela and Josue lagged dangerously behind Josselyn and I (and we were not even holding a quick pace), so I thus had to repeatedly tell them to hurry up only to find them lagging behind again. As Gabriela complained loudly (as is her style) and Josue (who does not talk) simply shuffled in his painstakingly slow manner, I told them lovingly that if they truly were that tired that they couldn’t even walk (but interestingly have enough energy to run and play all day at home and just a couple days prior had gone on a long walk with Darwin without any trouble), then they would go right to bed when we got home at 4:45pm so that they could rest their obviously weary bodies.
That sped them up momentarily, but in the end they meandered along in such a manner that their behavior confirmed that they did, in fact, need to go to bed and rest.
As we walked through our gate about fifteen minutes later, Gabriela assured me loudly and repeatedly that she wouldn’t be going to bed and that all she needed was to rest in the hammock. As I’m shuffling keys and water bottles in my hands, sweat pouring down my temples, and our two new puppies are jumping at our feet her incessant voice continued from a couple yards behind me, so I turned and informed her in an even tone, “If you say one more word about how you’re not going to bed, I’m going to wash your mouth out with soap.”
She definitely heard what I said, and, without skipping a beat, opened her big mouth again to tell me how she was just going to rest in the hammock.
Her elder sister, who’s mostly got the obedience thing down pat, came up to me, concerned, and said, eyes wide, “Gabriela said something else even after you told her not to.” I laughed and said, “I know,” led Gabriela by the hand to the bathroom as we were all crossing the threshold into our home, and I got the bar of pink soap and told her to open her mouth.
Now here’s the interesting part: Gabriela looked suddenly terrified and surprised and began to cry as if the entire situation had taken a drastic, utterly unexpected turn.
Calmly (by God’s grace), I pried her little teeth open and began cleaning it out with soap for the next minute or so while she bawled and screamed.
Hopefully heard above her ruckus, I said calmly, “This is to show you that I will always fulfill my word with you. I warned you that if you said one more word I would wash your mouth out with soap, you did, and now my word is being fulfilled. We can use our mouths to bless others or to curse, annoy and slander. We’re simply cleaning out all the junk that pours out of your mouth so that it flows blessing rather than evil.”
Her well-behaved older sister stood by as a highly interested witness, her eyes twinkling as if she was observing something almost serene. I imagine she was so enamored by the process because up until then in her life she had probably only witnessed (and experienced) parents who let their kids run wild with zero discipline or who react with over-the-top grab-the-kid-and-beat-the-crap-out-of-him-because-the-parent-waited-too-long-and-everything-is-now-out-of-control. I looked at her and asked, “I did warn her this would happen, right?” And Josselyn smiled and assured me that I hadn’t imagined the whole thing and that I had, in fact, given a clear and fair warning.
After the cleansing, with great strife Gabriela washed out her soapy mouth with water, brushed her teeth, and was off to bed (and not the hammock).
But I write all of this not to recount a simple anecdote of our daily life but to show what we can learn about the Eternal through little 6-year-old girls who have yet to have any real understanding of who God is.
I have both read and heard through various sources recently the message that God’s written word (the Bible) in its entirety serves as a general warning (and instruction book, and source of hope, etc) to humankind. Page after page, time period after time period, God – through His prophets, through Christ, through visions, etc – makes it very clear what He expects of us and the eternal consequences of both obedience and disobedience. In other words, if we spend our lives participating in what angers God and then are condemned to Hell and surprised about it, we have no one to blame but ourselves because the warning was put out there clearly enough. (Oh, but how many times have we heard the warning through various sources and turned a deaf ear, preferring to worship ourselves rather than God?)
In a recent Discipleship Group up in the mountains with our faith community, our mentor and dear friend Larry was explaining that from the get-go at the beginning of time God gives a clear, specific warning to Adam and Eve that they can eat out of any of the multitudes of trees except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and that, if they do, there will be severe consequences (that’s the clear, fair warning, like telling someone, “Don’t put your hand in the beehive, because, if you, you’ll get stung.”). They decide to believe Satan rather than God (common mistake), disobey, eat the fruit, and then experience the consequences (think what happened today with Gabriela).
To the contrary, if God had not given the warning to Adam and Eve, instead staying quiet and allowing them to eat from the forbidden tree without them having any knowledge that it would bring terrible consequences, how unfair God would have been! But God, in His justice and kindness, gave the warning and then left it up to us (I include all of us in there because we would have done the same thing) to decide whether to trust His word, obey and experience abundant life and freedom or to be deceived, disobey, and then suffer terribly for our own foolishness.
So let’s think of God’s Word as a written warning (and if we have no idea what the warning is or what is warns against, let’s open it up and find out before it’s too late!)
Warning: There is a Righteous, Good God who has understandable wrath against fallen humankind for their sin — for having destroyed His good creation and turned their backs on Him — and His perfect justice will be fulfilled in the right moment, condemning all those guilty to eternal punishment. BUT THERE IS AN OUT: Those who believe upon His son, Jesus Christ, as the deliverer of those who recognize their sin – and thus begin living for Him rather than for themselves – will be allowed a free entrance into His glorious, everlasting Kingdom where He Himself is the Good King, and in which there will be no more death, crying or pain. YOU CHOOSE.
Of course there are many, many more details than that, but that is the general, overall warning of Scripture. So if we live our lives in hot pursuit of money or engrossed in sexual sin or serving only ourselves, ignoring God and the warnings He has given us, arrive at the end of our lives, are judged justly and get condemned to the eternal punishment we deserve, how on earth can we say that God is unfair or unjust or we had not been properly warned?
Warning: “Gabriela, if you open you mouth one more time to say that you’re not going to go to bed, I’m going to wash your mouth out with soap.”
Action: She opens her mouth.
Fulfillment of Promised Justice: She gets her mouth washed out with soap but interestingly sees it as unfair.
So in the simple way that I can, via this blog today, I am serving as one of God’s little messengers, reminding all of us that there is a general warning about Life on Earth and that whether we regard or disregard it will ultimately determine our fate. And, as was the case with Adam and Eve long ago and with Gabriela today, we have the power to choose our action, but not the consequence.