There are hundreds, possibly thousands of other moments in life that are not so much life changing as they are life molding. Parents have so much to instill into their children before the kids are ready to leave the nest and take on the outside world. As one day builds upon the next from birth to the leaving of home and beyond, ideas, philosophies, and worldviews are formed. When life-changing events happen, it is the life molding moments that take over and carry us over to the other side of the monumental changes of life.
One such molding event happened to me more than 50 years ago. I was at a grocery store with my parents. Inside the store was this giant cart of different types of candy. A person could scoop candy into a bag and purchase it by weight.
I took a piece of candy and placed it in my pocket. Later, at home, my dad saw me pull it out of my pocket. At this point, the interrogation began. My story remained constant – I intended to put it in the cart, but I forgot. Dad showed no sympathy. Even if he believed me, I had taken something that was not mine; I had left the store without paying for it, I had stolen the candy. As persistent as I was in my claims, dad was equally persistent in his allegations that regardless of my intent, my actions resulted in thievery.
My trial, with my father as judge and jury, was over. Now it was time for sentencing and punishment to be carried out. I received a spanking. Then dad drove me back to the store. When we arrived at the A&P, he gave me the piece of candy and told me we were going inside, and I was to return the candy, confess to the manager I had stolen the candy and tell him I was sorry. Dad made it clear I was not to try to explain about my forgetfulness or offer any excuse. I had taken something that was not mine; I did not pay for it; therefore I had stolen it.
When I handed the manager the candy and told him I had stolen it, he made a comment about possibly calling the police and asked me if I had been punished for what I have done. I told him I was spanked and my dad drove me back to the store. He asked if I were going to steal any more candy, to which I promptly told him I would not. He said, “That’s good enough for me.” He shook my hand. He and dad said some words between themselves and we went home.
From the view of the 6-year-old child I was then and the fifty-seven-year-old man I am today, this is what I took away from my crime spree at the A&P and my father’s dealing with it:
1. Good intentions do not justify bad actions.
2. I must live up to and admit my wrong behavior.
3. True repentance is always backed up with changed behavior. I can honestly say, I have never stolen another piece of candy, accidentally or otherwise.
That 6-year-old boy of the mid-‘60s said something in his confession to the store manager I do not hear spoken by many people of any age today, “I did wrong, and I am sorry.”
There is always an excuse today. It is either someone else’s fault, or there is some circumstance that allows for the “unacceptable” behavior. I reckon my parents should have seen my love for candy and the fact that every kid does something wrong at one time or another and figured out I should stay home from the store or at least kept out of the candy aisle. I do not think pre-candy-theft counseling was available in the 1960s. I was a victim of my time – it was not my fault.
No, I was not a victim of my time or anything else. Maybe the best thing my father taught me that day was regardless of the reason the candy made it out of the store without being paid for, I was responsible and being responsible means I needed to stand up and take responsibility.
When people believe they can do no wrong, it will not be long before nothing is deemed wrong. It is only when people will admit that there is a problem can an issue be addressed. There is no reason to reach for a life preserver if one is not drowning.
How many banks does a person have to rob to be a bank robber? The answer is one. Therefore, I ask the question – How many sins does one need to commit to be a sinner (Romans 3:10,23)?
Preacher Tim Johnson is pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County, Ind. Email him at email@example.com and visit preacherjohnson.com.