It’s just the way it is. When you are the new kid in a strange town you have to find a way to fit into the group. This usually entails beating up the neighborhood bully, and accepting several double or even more urgent, triple dog dare you’s. When I moved to Tampa Florida at the age of 9 from Augusta Georgia, I was definitely the new kid. The kids couldn’t understand my drawl from the red clay hills , and I couldn’t understand their yankee accents.So, all of the conditions above were in play. I managed to do the first one okay. Now came the crazy challenges.
We lived on an Island and directly across the street from our neighborhood was a very deep water channel used by large sea going freighters and tugboats to deliver goods from around the world, to the large docks at the mouth of the Hillsborough River. Huge Cruise Ships port at those docks today. The channel was about a mile wide. The Island on the other side was owned by the railroad company and was undeveloped. It is now a beautiful luxury neighborhood with a yacht in every yard.
A paradigm (20 cents) of childhood, is that the older kid down the street knows everything. The elders knowledge is completely beyond challenge, such a faux pas, is punishable by rejection, the fear of which is overwhelming. Steve was almost 12 whole years old, and Steve decided that all five of us boys on our block should build a boat and row across the channel, to explore Seddon Island. To secure our plans from nagging and nay saying adults, we took the kid oath of silence. We all crossed our hearts and hoped to die if we told anybody what we were up to.
Steve knew everything about boat building. He was 12. So we rounded up some plywood and such, and fashioned a boat. We slapped a little whitewash on her because Steve told us that paint would make her more buoyant. We were ready.
The day before the launch, I began to get cold feet because I was a very inexperienced swimmer. I told Mark, Steve’s little brother about my misgivings.”Oh Yeah”, shouted Mark, “You’re Yellow!” (all guy’s understand the plague of the label of cowardice implied in such a comment, especially to a new kid.) It was such a forbidden monicker that only the most lowly, putrid, real life fraidy cats could allow it to be hung on them. To a 9 year old boy, life itself is less valuable than bravery.
I had screwed up. Not only did I admit my fear of this flimsy contraption, I had done worse by questioning the judgement of an older brother. I was in a quandary. My choice was to either set sail with my new found “friends” or be branded with the most onus label of all. So off I went.
It is also a fact that taking life jackets, which nobody had, would have been a blatant demonstration of our femininity. No cowboy loving macho kid, needs a life preserver. Did Sky King wear a parachute? To wear such, would indicate weakness.
We dropped our “boat” into the water and climbed in (all five of us) and started rowing. At first, everything was green in the garden. As we rowed along we visualized ourselves reporting to the other very jealous kids at our school, about our great escapade. Bull Halsey wouldn’t have had more glory. In our fully engaged imaginations it was a scene totally like George Washington crossing the Delaware. We would be immortalized by this trip by our peers.
A little more than halfway across, more on the Seddon Island side than our side, it happened. The dreaded words I will always remember, coming from the kid in the “seat” behind me. “STEVE MY FEET ARE SOAKED!” In the time it took to turn around and check out the source, it was all over. One second I was looking at the deck and the next, the deck was gone forever more to rest at the bottom of the channel, as a monument to the incompetence of our fearless leader.
BARGAINING! “Jesus if you get me out of this I swear I will never throw a frog in the bathtub with my older sister again!”
ACCEPTANCE! “I am going to die! Might as well just get it done and not make a big deal of it!”
ACTION! I became a proficient swimmer in a matter of seconds. Admittedly it was an awkward sight, it was more like flailing away, kicking and gasping. Just as I was going down for the third time, I heard it! A very loud siren. The sound came from right behind my left shoulder. It was the Tampa Police Boat.
REJOYCE! “Thank You Jesus!” “I am going to live!” “I didn’t really mean the thing about the frog, never is a long time.”
BUTT KICKING! The grappling hook guided me to the back of the boat where the two Officers drug me over the transom. I was the last one on board. The cop threw blankets on us and then it began! Some people think that my rhetoric is too interspersed with profanity. The officer who had us trapped in his boat may have been the origin. In all my life, I have never heard such an eclectic montage of curse words as spewed from the obviously apoplectic Policeman. At the end of the diatribe came a quite predictable declaration that we all feared was coming. “And Furthermore you little morons, I am going to call everyone of your parents! And you will complete a coast guard auxiliary water safety class that will be taught every Saturday for six weeks!” That hurt worse than the belt lashing from the old man.
Now you may be asking yourself what any of this has to do with Scriptures and Jesus. Allow me to explain.
My first near death experience, (unfortunately, there have been several more involving airplanes and automobiles) was caused by a problem that has afflicted man since at least Jesus’ time: The Fear Of What Others Think! Jesus identified this as one of the deadly distractions used by the evil one. He called it “The Cares Of This World”.
In the parable of the Sower (Mark 4:18-19) our King explained the 4 tools of the evil one: The Pride Of Life, The Cares Of This World, The Deceitfulness Of Riches and The Lust Of Other Things. What other people think of us is item number one under the cares of this world.
I know people who are going to die and suffer for eternity, separated from mercy, grace, compassion, hope, love, peace and above all Jesus, because they think people will think less of them for accepting Jesus. They are afraid of appearing foolish in the eyes of their fellow intellectuals.
I know people who live with unnecessary disease and maladies and infirmities, because they are afraid of what their friends and fellow Christians would think of them if they were to report that they commanded the illness to die as Jesus instructed us. They are petrified of what their friends would think if they actually used the power that Jesus gave us all. They will not even repeat the promises of Jesus because the elders of the church might get wind of it. They know that they would be scoffed at if they told their church friends that they believe that they have the same power as Jesus had.
I know many people who would rather live morose and miserable lives than admit that they believe everything that Jesus said. They are horrified at the thought of being called a Jesus Freak. The idea of being called, “So heavenly minded that they are no earthly good” by their fellow parishioners is mortifying to them.
I know people who settle for lives of mediocrity or worse because they refuse to believe Jesus, for fear of what people would think. I know folk who have forfeited lives of prosperity, joy, happiness, health and peace because they would rather go with the name brand disempowered unbelieving main stream theology of today because they want to belong.
I know people who attend dead mega churches where the Gospel is a pariah, because they want to be seen there. They need to “fit in”. Their Kids need to be with other kids, even if in the process, they are being taught pablum instead of power.
I know people who have been given everything that they will ever want or need, by Jesus, yet refuse to receive it because they would be embarrassed to proclaim it. They are afraid of people calling them “blabbers and grabbers” “greasy gracers” “feel good Christians”.
Back to that little 9 year old boy who was one breath away from drowning because he was more afraid of what his buds would think than he was of death. Jesus put that police boat there. It was an absolute miracle. One second before it was not there. One second later it would have been too late.
One of the reasons why, is so that I could write this message to you. It took me many years to grasp how costly it is to be led by or even consider the thought of what others think. I hope it takes you less.
There are many more lessons from that episode. Jesus has used it to teach me many times. He never condemns me for it. He uses it to demonstrate how important I was and am to Him, and how much He loves all of us individually. Maybe I will write more about that little boy again one day.
I pray that this message has blessed or enlightened you. If so, would you please pass it to another who will be blessed?
Here is a link to an outstanding message produced by the Holy Spirit and delivered at our Sunday Service: http://knowjesusknowgrace.com/604
Throne of Grace Ministries is a 501c3 Ministry. Our primary ministry is counseling and Pastoring business and community leaders, so that they can lead others by their example. We also minister in Hospitals, Nursing Homes, Addiction Centers, Recovery Programs, Homeless Shelters, Businesses, Homes, and wherever the Holy Spirit leads us. We teach the Un-Compromised Gospel of Jesus to thousands of people in more than 100 countries around the world and all over the United States through our website: KnowJesusKnowGrace.Com.
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Pastor Allen Fleming
Throne of Grace
Marietta, Georgia 30066