Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The Wrong Hombre to Fool With
You see the picture.
A hat like that would be a prized possession by anyone’s standard. In fact, I had one just like it back in my teens, and wore it with pride, until…
One random weekday morning, my brother Samuel was getting ready for school, and asked if he could borrow my Raiders stocking cap for a field trip that day. It was a cold day, and he was going to be outside, so I agreed, and Samuel took my hat.
I went to school that day and never gave my hat a thought. When I got home that afternoon, I breezed straight to my room as I normally did, unloading my school stuff and turning on some tunes.
Just as I was getting settled in, the moment came. Not sure what the deal was, or what the chemistry of that moment was, but for whatever reason, my fuse was unusually short.
Samuel came in, looking forlorn.
“Uh, Dave…I lost your hat. I left it somewhere on the field trip today.”
Oh, no, you didn’t.
I really don’t remember my words. I hope Samuel doesn’t, either. All I know is that I let him have it. Man, I shook the leaves on the trees. Yeah, that’s right. I was the wrong hombre to fool with. One tough sunnuvugun.
Samuel took this tongue-lashing quietly. He just stood there in silence, staring down at the carpet as I strutted past him and out of the room, far more macho than this hat-losing brother of mine would ever hope to be.
I cruised down the stairs and through the kitchen, right past my mom, who stopped me and said, “Oh, David, I need to tell you something before you talk to Samuel today. He lost your hat on his field trip, but I need you to be understanding. He really felt bad about it. He was crying on the way home.”
(Do you remember those old cartoon scenes, when a character realizes he's been a complete jerk, and for just a moment, turns into a skunk, and then back to his normal self?)
Could anyone have scripted this?
My crime became even more heinous when I later learned that Samuel had made a valiant effort to save my precious hat. As his class was about to return to school on their bus, he realized he had left it behind, and insisted the teacher make the bus driver wait while he went back to search for my hat, only to find it was already gone. He had done all he could.
What are the odds? The moment my brother, six years my junior, acted most like an adult, I chose to respond like a child. When the moment called for grace, I refused to be gracious. When a loved one was vulnerable, I was vicious. Just when a point did not need to be made, I took it upon myself to pound it home, and in dramatic fashion.
It was the worst possible response, short of physical violence.
And in contrast: Just when my brother might have felt most justified in fighting fire with fire, he turned the other cheek and absorbed it all.
For everything we understand about the danger of the human tongue, how often do we forget that it's more than a simple matter of the words we choose and the stories we tell?
One of the most revealing tests of our character is the way we choose to treat someone who is vulnerable. What do we do or say when we have the upper hand, and someone else is in a position of weakness? "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." -- Matthew 5:7
Another test, just as crucial as the first, is our commitment to living out the truth of Proverbs 25:11. "The right word at the right time is like precious gold set in silver." How well do we sense where other people are and what they need?
Don't feel up to the test?
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him." -- James 1:5
Or, there is always the world's way: Show 'em how tough you are. Repay any offense. Make sure they know you're the wrong hombre to fool with.
And how will Jesus answer?
"I never knew you."