Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
October 25, 2009
I lost my last fist fight but it helped me to see the
People love a good fight. When I was young I got into several fist fights. Mostly I fought with Harold. We had short fights during recess at school. Our schoolmates would gather round and cheer us on. They wanted to see blood.
We fought with our bare fists so our knuckles got skinned up. We did not bother with body punches; I aimed for his face and he aimed for mine. We knew the fight would be over once one of us got a bloody nose. Neither of us wanted a long fight so we were glad to hear the bell ring, calling us back to the classroom.
One of my last fist fights as a boy was the shortest of all. On the play ground Harold and I insulted each other and quickly squared off to fight. Before I could land a blow he hit me between the eyes and the lights went out. I woke up flat on my back staring into the faces of laughing friends. That fight changed me. It cured me of thinking I could fight. I was no Joe Louis.
That knockout taught me a great life principle. Unmanaged anger can ruin your life. Anger can turn into hate. And hate can knock the lights out in your relationships with others. Choose to hate and you plunge into darkness. Hate robs you of the light to see where you are going.
We do have a choice. We can love or we can hate. When we love we walk in light. When we hate others we stumble in the dark. We have light only if we choose to love.
Love, of course, is not really an achievement. We do not learn to love by balling up our fists and saying, “I am going to love this person even if it kills me!” Love is more like a gift. The Bible calls it a “fruit.” When we are “rooted” in God, love is the fruit of that relationship. So love is not something we “must do.” It is something that “happens” within us when we decide to choose God’s way instead of our own way. Some people call that surrender.
When I married Dean she did not know how to make dinner rolls. Her cooking skills were limited. Across the street lived a dear older woman who took Dean under her wing and gently taught her how to make potato rolls. Mary did not talk down to my wife or make her feel embarrassed by her lack of knowledge about cooking. She loved Dean and praised her for catching on so fast.
Fifty-seven years later my wife remembers with joy the loving kindness of our neighbor. She still has the recipe for potato rolls that Mary gave her. Mary was an ordinary woman whose love made a lasting difference to a struggling young wife. Today Dean walks in the light of Mary’s love.
Jim was a brilliant student I met in my first year in seminary. We became fast friends. He was five years older and took an interest in me. He invited me to study with him. I could not help him but he was an enormous help to me. He showed me the ropes and helped me gain confidence in my own skills.
By the end of the semester I realized my grades were much higher because of the hours spent studying with Jim. Neither of us back then would have called this “love” but I know differently now. I was a much better student because Jim invested time in me. His quite ordinary love made such a difference that I remember it more than 50 years later.
Material things sometimes become too important to us. We are all tempted to covet things that others have. We want to keep up with the Joneses. In a culture that flaunts affluence, it is not easy to be content with a simple life.
What sometimes helps us is the example of ordinary people who are content with very little “stuff.” I think of Frank Hugh and Louise Pierce. They were hard-working folks who lived in a simple cottage that was always open to us.
When others faced trouble, Frank Hugh and Louise were always the first to help. They seemed too busy helping other people to find time to “feather their own nest.” The example of their love for others shines like a star in my sky and over the years has helped me resist the lust for wealth. Such love is indeed light to live by.
Robert Frost wrote about a certain man, “He was a light – to no one but himself.” His was a selfish light that brightened no path other than his own. No one ever said of him, with gratitude and admiration, “You light up my life!” He missed the opportunity of a lifetime – to light the way for someone else.
We have a choice. We can hate and walk in darkness or we can love and walk in light. In the end, hate loses. Love wins. So choosing to love puts us on the winning team. + + +