Learning Obedience as a Child

Growing up in the country, my family used a clothes line to dry our clothes.  I can still picture in my mind my mom hanging sheets out to dry as the “wind came sweeping down the plains”.  Our clothes line was supported by a sturdy pipe at each end and was welded together in the shape of a “T”.  At age 10, I decided it would be great fun to go racing around the house on my bike and then setting aim for the clothes line.  I would leap from my bike and grab the horizontal bar of the “T” as my bike went speeding out from under me.  I remember thinking this event should be an Olympic sport, and after doing it successfully several times, I thought surely I would win the gold!  What I did not know at the time was that my father had been watching me from the window.   He came out to me and specifically said, “I do not want you doing that again because I’m afraid you will get hurt”.   He then went back into the house.  However, it had been such great fun, and I was so good at it that I thought I could do it just one more time and my dad would never know.  So, I began racing around the house again to set sail for that clothes line.  Only this time as I leaped from my bike and grabbed hold of the bar, the sweat and the grime on my hands, coupled with inertia and gravity, caused me to lose my grip and go flying out into the air.  With great force, my entire body came down landing on my left arm.  To my shock, when I looked at my left arm it was bent in a way I had never seen before.  Later that night, I would hear the doctors at the hospital say that it was a compound fracture and I would spend the rest of the summer with my arm in a cast.

The pain of that event was not the broken arm or the hurt ego, but the simple fact that I had been disobedient to my father.  Today, Character First helps define and articulate what obedience is.  It is “quickly and cheerfully carrying out the direction of those who are responsible for me”.  My father was trying to protect me and look out for my best interest.  However, I thought I could get away with my disregard of his instructions and he would never know.  This was a life lesson for me that I have stubbornly had to learn again and again.  There are consequences to disobedience.

The Bible gives us many examples of disobedience and its consequences.  In the beginning there was the disobedience of Adam and Eve and being cast out of the garden; Moses and the children of Israel refused to take the “Promised Land” and wandered for 40 years in the dessert; King David was unfaithful; Judas was deceitful; and Ananias and his wife Sapphira were struck dead for lying to God.  It is obvious that God expects our obedience.  1 Samuel 15:21, “To obey is better than sacrifice”; John 14:22, Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching”; and Ephesians 6:1 admonishes, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right”.

Our obedience and disobedience affects families, the work place, school, government, and the laws of this land.  It is unimaginable to think that someone would purposely ignore a red light at an intersection because the consequences could be devastating.  There must be reasonable laws in a civil society to protect the people.  It is right to obey and respect authority.  This is not to say that the people should blindly obey unethical and immoral requests from its leaders.  The holocaust is a tragic example of such.  Thankfully, freedom of speech and our constitution gives us the privilege of righting wrong and correcting injustice.  “The alternative to obedience is not independence but damaged trust and lost opportunities.” (Character First Bulletin Series 3, #6)

Journalist Heywood Broun wrote, “Sports do not build character.  They reveal it.”  “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and seven others were permanently banned from baseball because of their role in throwing the 1919 World Series.  Today, because of questions about potential steroid use, baseball players Bonds, McGwire, and Clemens may not be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Lastly, just this summer bicyclist Lance Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France wins because of his alleged “doping”.  “Cheaters never win”, it may only seem that way for a time.  What I do know is that there are consequences to disobedience.  It is best to obey, and that jumping off a bike to a backyard clothes line is still not an Olympic sport.

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