The Third Commandment

I was recently reunited with a dear childhood friend. We e-chatted back and forth with treasured memories. I soon learned that her remember-er is different from mine.

For instance, I remember getting in trouble for crossing the highway to play with a friend. She remembers getting in trouble for crossing the highway to throw rocks at that little boy, whose name she says was Lars. I say it was Sven.

Play with the boy, stone the boy; Lars, Sven. Things get lost in Memoryland after 58 years, but one memory remains unshakeable. My friend Anne shared the word of God with me, and it left an indelible impression on my life.

We were sitting on the floor in her bedroom playing something and listening to a red vinyl record of the marches of John Phillip Sousa.

I do not remember exactly what I said, but all of a sudden my diminutive friend, who couldn’t have been more than 8 years old, exclaimed, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain!”

Where did that come from? I had never heard anyone use the Word of God in a regular conversation before. At first I was offended (I think the Word of God does that), and I felt upbraided. Then I felt conviction (I think the Word of God does that, too) and a sense of having done something really wrong. But I didn’t want to run away and hide under the bed or anything.

Then I was curious. How did she know that, and how did she know how to use it in the right context? Not even my mother had ever said anything like that to me. How could a kid do that? It was direct and powerful, and it was right.

When I recovered from the shock of what had just happened, I think I replied something like, “Oh, OK.” But I pondered it for years. It had depth of impact. It was simple, but profoundly complex.

It was obviously something that required extensive and detailed study or knowledge, but it came from the mouth of a babe. It was emotionally intense, pointing the way to a place remote from me and inaccessible.

I’m telling you. I pondered it for years. And then I decided to test it.

I was thirteen and defiant. I was the master of my fate. I was thirteen and scared to death. But with typical teenage bravado, I decided to challenge Anne’s admonition and let fly with some sort of sacrilegious verbiage. Then I waited.

It was not long before I felt the effects of that outburst. Sparing you the gory details, I will say that I fell into a cycle of sin and sadness that lasted for years. And I knew it had begun when I shook my rebellious tongue at the Almighty.

Not satisfied with two proofs of purchase, I challenged God and His Word yet again as a young married woman — again on purpose — with the same sad and sinful result.

Finally I began to catch His drift. Taking His name in vain was a thing not to be done. God is real. God’s Word is real. There are consequences for breaking the commandments.

Later I learned that if you have broken one of the commandments, you have broken them all. That’s when I knew I was in BIG trouble. I started looking for that remote and inaccessible place, and He drew me closer and closer. It was not so remote after all and was easily accessible. You just had to say the right words.

“Lord, forgive me.”

Thank you, Anne. You can remember our growing up years any way you want to, but this is how I remember you.

“But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they were indignant.

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?” — Matthew 21:15-16 NIV)

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