Swimming in Paradise Lost (Part 2)

Here is the point I am trying to make with this illustration of my sister’s suffering.  My sin of not honoring my mother’s commands caused both me and my sister to suffer a pretty nasty switching.  And it wasn’t unjust.  The responsibility was on me to make sure I had secured permission and that the matter was settled in my favor.  I should never have given an authoritative word to my sister without making the veracity of that word certain.

Mine was a sin of carelessness which cost my sister.  In Numbers 14, it was sins of rebellion which caused further suffering for the children of Israel.  As a penalty for their rebellion, the Lord determined that the adults of Israel who had been miraculously delivered from Egypt would not be allowed to enter the promised land.  Their children would be brought into the promised land, but they would not.

Can you imagine the pain and suffering of those 40 years in the wilderness?  Grandparents died.  Parents died.  Elder siblings died.  Israel was doomed to wander in the wilderness until all these people died.  As Numbers 14:33 says, “Your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness.”  Just as all have suffered since the time of Adam and Eve on account of sin, so, too, Israelites suffered because their parents disobeyed God.

While it is true (as Ezekiel says) that “the soul which sins shall die,” meaning that each person stands before the Lord on His own, it is also true that  no one enters Heaven based on the good works of his parents.  No one enters Hell based on the bad deeds of his father.  It is appointed once that each person should die, and after that comes the judgment.

Still, we must not forget what the poet Donne taught us, “No man is an island.”  No one exists to himself.  No one’s actions are completely independent of others.  Folks who think their sins are their own and don’t hurt others simply demonstrate that they have no care or concern for others because all sin infects and injures others.  Just as my poor decision caused my sister to face the wrath of Momma, so, too, will our sinful actions cause others to suffer.  And, this especially the case with our children.

As parents, we have a special obligation to model upright behavior for our children.  I was telling someone the other day that I had an opportunity to sky dive one day, and I turned it down because it wasn’t worth the risk to me. I wasn’t afraid of dying—that isn’t the risk I am speaking about.  Rather, for me, skydiving was not worth the risk to my children.  (At that time, I had 2 little ones at home).  No amount of thrill for me would have been worth leaving them here without a father.  If something would have happened, my children would have suffered because of a poor decision I made.  I would have exchanged their opportunity of having a complete family for a one-time shot of adrenaline (or dopamine, or whatever you get from jumping).

How much more is it the case that when we knowingly sin—bringing drugs, drunkenness, pornography, adultery, and fornication into our homes—we cause our own children to suffer.  When marriages dissolve, children suffer.  When cheap sex ends in abortion, a child dies.  Mothers (who might have been) often suffer terribly after abortions.  And fathers suffer, too.  I know.  I have spoken to them in private after abortions.  You don’t know who they are, but I know them.  I know there is terrible suffering because of sin, and it isn’t isolated to the sinner himself.  It spreads to others like a snake’s venom spreads throughout the body, poisoning it to death.

Each one of us must answer to the Lord for our sins.  Each one of us also suffers in this life because of consequences from the sins of others.  And each one of us ought to remember that our sins are not our own.  So, as we swim in our little corners of paradise, let us remember that paradise has been lost (for now).  So, we must be careful to swim according to Christ if we wish to swim in the new and true paradise.  There is great joy–paradise indeed–in the presence of God.  Let us always remember to do our swimming there, surrounded by the beauty of His holiness.

Swimming in Paradise Lost

Oh, what a day we had!  My sister and I were both just kids, less than 10 years old.  But we knew how to have fun in a swimming pool.  And the swimming pool we were in was fantastic.  It was a big, in-ground pool, probably 20’ x 40’ with a nice concrete walk all the way around it.  There was a giant, blue squiggly slide on one side, a diving board on another.  The water was as clear as the cleanest glass in the cupboard.  And the water felt as cool as my mother’s iced tea.

It was a great day of splashing, swimming, floating, sliding, and diving.  The only other person in the pool was our friend Tracy.  In fact, the pool belonged to Tracy’s aunt.  Tracy and her family were taking care of it while the aunt was away.  She invited us to come along with them on this particularly sunny day.  It was paradise, until we returned home.

Paradise was quickly lost upon our arriving home.  We didn’t get past the sidewalk before the switch wrapped its talons violently across the back of our calves, leaving an undecipherable Morris-code message of dot-dot-dashes written in the slightly raised red lines.  To say my mother was angry would have been an understatement along the lines of “BP spilled a little oil.”  My mother was furious.

While we were soaking up the son over on Frusha Drive, my mother (across town) was marching up and down Bon Ami Street calling our names, wondering where we might be.  To this day, I still maintain that the ordeal occurred from miscommunication rather than disobedience, but my mother (the bearer of the switch) still thinks otherwise.  The switch got the final word.

My sister sent me to ask my mother’s permission for us to go across town swimming, thinking that my mother would likely be a little softer toward me—her baby boy.  Dutifully, I went.  I heard my mother respond to my request for permission to go swimming with a simple, “un-huh,” in which the “n” is not really pronounced; it’s simply there in a kind of “n”-sounding way.  The reason that is so important in this case is that it sounds remarkably similar to its negative counterpart in the Southern dialect, which is, “unt-uh.”  The first colloquialism is affirmative: It means, “Sure, kids, go swimming all day and have a great time.”  The second is negative (and in this case most emphatically so): It means, “Absolutely not! Are you crazy? Of course you cannot go across town swimming at another person’s home, whom I don’t even know.”  One little sound makes an awful lot of difference to a kid’s bottom.

I share the story because of its impact on my sister.  She was innocent in the matter.  Her spanking was the direct result of my telling her it was OK for us to go.  She received a defective word from me; yet she still suffered for it as much as I did.  Her spanking is a testimony to the reality that innocents will suffer because of sin.  My mistake caused her to suffer.

(to be continued)