When I was a boy the death sentence was to have to go to bed without a “treat.” To call what we ate before we went to bed at night a “treat” is a bit of a misnomer, because it was usually a full meal of left-overs. On Sunday night it was really our evening meal eaten after church. Sunday diner was usually late because by the time we arrived home after talking with all the people we would eat late and then the evening service was upon us immediately after our naps. Buy the time we arrived home on Sunday evening we were ready to eat. I mean we were really ready to eat.
When I was hungry it was so hard for me not to misbehave. I’m still that way. You want to feed me or get out of the way. On the way home from church on Sunday nights I was always dangerously hungry. My parents tried all kinds of things to get me to behave, stopping just short of electric-shock therapy and capitol punishment. The last-resort discipline, especially on Sunday evenings was to have to go to bed without a treat.
One Sunday night in the car on the way home I pushed my parents just a bit too far and my Dad pronounced judgment on me. “Kenny, that’s it. You will go to bed without a treat tonight. Your mother and I have warned you ever and over again.”
Silence fell over the car. Even my brothers and sisters felt sympathy for me. No one spoke for the rest of the trip and when we got home I was sent directly to my room. I climbed the narrow, wooden stairs and sat dejectedly on my bed without undressing, cursing my foolishness and listening to voices drifting up from below and the noise of the plates and glasses of the rest of the family.
Then there was another noise. It was the noise of the staircase. Someone was coming up. Dad stepped into the doorway. He had a plate of food. He handed me the plate. After a few bites I saw Dad was not eating. I looked at him.
“Kenny, I told you that you couldn’t eat before you go to bed but I couldn’t stand the idea of you going to sleep without any food. I’m taking your punishment. I’ll go to bed without food so you don’t have to go to bed hungry. I love you.”
I ate and we both cried.
Dad taught, modeled, and illustrated Christ-like love and biblical truth to his children every day. He knew that it was important for me to learn to behave, even when I was hungry. But it was more important to him that I understand the Gospel. He wanted me to understand that Jesus took my punishment on Calvary. My dad is a creative man. I thank God for him. I want to be like him.
Riverfront Character Inn
April 10, 2006