I made the mistake of turning on the evening news while we were about to eat dinner one night. Here I was looking for some uplifting Olympic sports coverage, but the newscaster wasn’t portraying a positive message of hopes fulfilled and perseverance and courage being rewarded. In fact, listening to him almost felt like a punishment. If I didn’t think our country was headed down the wrong path before, I was convinced Doomsdays was right around the corner. I was getting depressed just listening to him.
Now, you need to understand that we don’t normally watch television during suppertime, except recently during the Olympics when I set aside the rule about eating anywhere other than the kitchen or dining room, and we picnicked in the living room where we have a better view of the television. I thought this would be a fun way to cheer on our athletes, discuss with our children how hard work pays off, and engage in some creative family time, especially since we’d experienced temperatures below zero for three weeks straight and no one wanted to venture outside, unless venturing was absolutely necessary. So, for a few days, I relaxed my controlling tendencies and turned a blind eye to the crumbs cascading down upon the carpet while we picnicked in the living room and watched mogul athletes blow out their knees and rattle their brains, I mean, race down the hill, skiing over troughs in the bump field in their fast-paced attempt to claim a gold, silver, or bronze medal. I figure rules were made to be broken, and I have two able-bodied boys capable of vacuuming up after themselves.
I’d gone all out on preparing our meal ~ a fresh salad, homemade buns, bison burgers with cheddar cheese, crispy bacon and Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce ~ and we’d said grace, and were ready to dig in. So while we were sprawled out on a blanket eating, I figured tonight would be the ideal time to work in an object lesson on something my husband, Kevin, and I had been trying to model for our kids: shining our lights for Jesus. I turned off the TV and said, “How about this: let’s quit listening to someone talk about everyone’s problems and instead talk about what a great God we have and encourage each other to be the brightest bulb on the tree.”
I looked both boys in the eye and set to work setting the record straight. “Not all news needs to be bad news. There are a lot of people in the world shining their lights for Jesus. Can you give me a few examples?”
We discussed that for a few minutes, and then I asked for an example or two of when our lights dim and don’t shine very brightly. My youngest son, Soren, said, “I can give you some examples of when your light doesn’t shine, mom.”
Hmmmm. Not exactly the answer I was looking for, but ...
“Okay,” I said, trying to keep my voice light and my attitude upbeat. “Let me have it. When is my light dimmer than it should be?”
“Your light dimmed last week, mom.”
I swallowed a bite of my burger, but it lodged like a painful lump in my throat. “It did?”
“Yeah, but the other day yours wasn’t just dim. It completely burned out,” Graham said, making a face at me.
Not to be outdone, Soren leaned toward me and chimed in, “I think your candle actually disappeared.”
Ouch. Oh, really? My candle had disappeared? Where had it gone? Was that even possible? And here I was, trying to set a good example.
I looked at my husband, Kevin, who looked back at me, shrugged and said, “They’re right. You asked.”
I should probably also mention here that ever since we began telling our two boys about God, reading them Bible stories, rejoicing with them when they invited Jesus into their hearts, helping them memorize Bible verses for AWANA and Sunday school, and teaching them about prayer, the Ten Commandments and The Beatitudes, we’ve had problems. In our attempt to be Godly parents, you name it, we’ve had to do it: being accountable for our actions, watching our tongues, avoiding gossip, loving our neighbors, holding on to our temper, and displaying the patience of Job. The list goes on and on. Probably nothing more than what most other Christian parents go through, but still. Apparently I’d failed and been caught red-handed and empty-handed, to boot.
Setting aside my half-eaten meal, I realized I wasn’t hungry anymore. In fact, I’d completely lost my appetite.
“Remember the morning dad was out of town and the dog broke into the chicken coop and the chickens scattered and it was dark outside and really cold?” Soren asked. “It was before you went to work. You couldn’t find all the chickens and had to leave one outside until you got home. You got mad and yelled, and I think you said a word you’re not supposed to say, and then –”
And then I held up my hand like a police officer stemming the tide of traffic and said, “Yeah, I get your point.” This conversation was going downhill faster than an Olympic ski jumper speeding to get the gold.
Mind you, I’m still young enough to have decent mental recall, but apparently, my son Soren has a better memory than I do. I didn’t remember yelling or saying something I wasn’t supposed to.
“See?” Looking me straight in the eye, he went to work setting the record straight. “Your candle didn’t just burn out, mom. No one could even see it.”
By this time in our conversation, I was regretting bringing up the topic of shining our lights for Jesus. What I had intended as an object lesson for my boys ended up being an object lesson for me. Not only was I no longer hungry, but I’d developed a stomachache too. And I’d even made a fresh batch of chocolate mint ice cream for dessert.
“The devil snuffed out your light, and you told us never to let him do that.”
Leaving fret and worry in his stead, the enemy of my soul had stolen my candle, blown a fetid breath, extinguished my flame, and ate the wax and the wick until there was nothing left. This was not to be taken lightly, and I needed to confront the situation head on.
“Boys, you’re right,” I agreed, quiet and subdued. “And I’m sorry. I blew it, didn’t I?”
Graham held up an index finger and sent a puff of air at his fingertip. “Actually, the devil blew it, mom.”
We had a good laugh, and I applauded my boys for keeping me accountable. The rest of our meal went well, and I ate ice cream, after all.
My sons’ observations were a good reminder for me that a dim light does not pierce the darkness, and an extinguished candle does not light my way. When I allow the devil to yank my pull chain, my darkened light bulb is not a lamp for my feet to guide me on the path to righteousness, nor does letting him have the upper hand set a good example for others, as my children so eloquently pointed out to me.
Gotta run. I need to break open a book of matches, trim my wick and light another candle.