Take one step forward.
I loved rainy days. As a kid in third grade, any change from the monotonous routine was welcomed. Recess in the hot sun consisted of games of tether ball or freeze-tag. One might get a turn on the swings, but that was for the little kids. And, it was always hot. Always.
No. Rainy days were great. We took our recess in the combined cafeteria/auditorium. The long dining tables were shoved to the walls and the concrete floor between them was our playground. Instead of the usual every-kid-for-himself chaos, we played organized games there.
On the day my old brain is reliving tonight we were all playing the game called Simon Says.
Sixty-some participants stood side by side, awaiting instructions. The teacher called out the order.
“Take one step forward.”
From one end of the cafeteria to the other, no one moved. Except me. One step forward.
Well? That’s what she said to do.
“No. I didn’t say ‘Simon says.’ You’re out, Paul. Go sit on the edge of the stage.”
One step. Just one and I was disqualified. The game lasted the whole period.
“Simon says, ‘Jump on one leg.’ Simon says, ‘Stop.'”
I sat, joined eventually by others who were also foolish enough to make a move without the authority of the mysterious Simon. For the whole hour, I sat.
I remember now.
I hate rainy days.
That was many years ago. A lot has happened since those days—some good, some bad. I’ve done some things I am proud of, and more than a few of which I am not.
Sometimes we get chances to make amends. I have learned that most of those chances have to be approached purposefully. Still, I don’t always know if I should make those moves or not. Often, I wish there were someone standing to the side, saying stupid words like Simon says to give me the nudge I need—perhaps, even permission, or at least, someone to blame.
Just a couple of months ago, I had one of those times.
While wandering through the never-never-world of Facebook one evening, I happened to look up the name of an old friend. I say he is an old friend, but I only knew him for a bit over a year’s time, nearly forty years ago. We were in a bible study together during that year.
I was a know-it-all kid, certain I had all the answers. I had a concordance and I wasn’t afraid to use it! When my friend and I disagreed in our group about a certain passage in the Bible (and there were many such disagreements), I wasn’t adverse to attacking the character of the man, rather than sticking to a rational discussion of the meaning and context.
I’ve spent most of the forty years since wishing I had treated him better. I wondered if I would ever get a chance to apologize for my arrogance and insensitivity. Our Teacher told us if we knew of anything another person had against us, we were not even to offer our gifts to God, before we went and made things right. (Matthew 5: 23, 24)
I have placed my offering in the basket many times since that day.
But, on that evening when I found my friend’s name on Facebook, suddenly the never-never-land turned into a haunted house, with ghosts and scary memories galore. It is easy to be petrified in such a place and simply do nothing.
I could just close the browser window on my computer and get on with my life. No blood visible, no foul committed. Keep playing!
It was my move. And, wouldn’t you know it, there was no teacher around to say Simon says, ‘Move one step forward.’
I never was all that good at waiting for the Simon says instructions, anyway.
I took the step. Friend request sent.
The next morning, there was an answer. Friend request approved.
And then—nothing happened.
Nothing. Until this morning. I received a personal message that said in effect, Who are you? Do I know you?
He didn’t remember me! He’s not angry. He can’t even remember sitting with me in that living room.
I sent a reply. Sorry. Request sent in error. Then I clicked the unfriend function.
That’s the end of that. I’m washing my hands and moving on.
You know that’s not how this works, right? Obviously, I didn’t do any of that.
But, here was my problem: Where was the person who would tell me Simon says to take another step? When would I get some clarification? My old friend wasn’t angry at me. Did I still need to make things right?
I took the step. Hard as it was, I jogged his memory and accepted the responsibility for my actions.
Can I let you in on a little secret? Obedience is always the correct response to God’s prompting. Always.
Does it always turn out with a storybook ending?
But today, I have gained back a brother. We’re going to get together the next time either of us is anywhere in the vicinity of the other. We’ll eat a meal together. We’ll shake hands. We may argue over something, but it will be over something and not about the other person in the discussion.
Values are important for us to hold onto. They don’t require that we beat people over the head with them. Speaking the truth in love will never look any different. If a personal attack is involved, love is not.
I have gained back a brother. It took a step on my part. And, one on his. And, another on mine. That’s the way it works.
Do you have something you know needs to be accomplished? Resolved? Repaired?
Take one step forward.
Simon says, “Take one step forward.”
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.
(Ephesians 4:15,16 ~ RSV)
What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it.
(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry ~ French author/poet ~ 1900-1944)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.