It is amazing that my little brothers still speak to me at all. When they were small I tormented them without mercy. That’s just the way I treated people I loved when I was a kid. At the time it was hard for them to understand the twisted psychology of that. I would tell you the details but then you probably wouldn’t like me anymore-so I’ll just keep most of them to myself and give you one representative example here.
Years ago on a summer day I spent the day with my dad who was helping build a house on his break from teaching school. It was a long hot day so on the way home we stopped for a cold soft-drink. I chose Seven-Up which at the time was only sold in those wonderful dark green glass bottles. I finished it off quickly on the way home.
Walking through the kitchen I noticed some old dishwater standing in the sink and had an evil thought. Maybe you really can’t help it when evil ideas pop into your mind but you don’t have to act on them. I did.
I laid my empty bottle down in the water and filled it about a third full of the water from the sink. With a sinister chuckle I toweled the outside of the bottle dry. “Perfect,” I thought. I went looking for my five year old brother, Kevin.
“Hey, Kevin, you want the rest of my pop?”
He came eagerly over to me. I remember the trusting look in his big innocent eyes. He was wearing overalls. He should have been bright enough to know something was up, but there he stood like a deer in the cross-hairs.
“Sure,” he said with an eager smile and he grabbed the bottle with both hands and guzzled down a good gulp before he knew what he was doing.
Suddenly he let out a desperate wail and began to bound around the room clutching his neck. Instantly the whole family was in the room.
“What happened,” my Dad demanded, for some reason looking directly at me.
“I gave him some old water from the sink. I was just kidding. It was a joke.”
My sister said, “That wasn’t water. I was soaking rags. That was bleach.”
Immediately my Dad snatched my little brother up and tried to induce vomiting. He sent me to the Drug Store for Milk of Magnesia to aid in the process. (Later he discovered this was the wrong way to treat ingestion of a small amount of bleach because it burns your throat coming back out again that way). I rode like the wind praying that my brother would not die, fighting back tears.
When I got home all was quiet. Kevin was still alive. He survived and grew into a strapping specimen of a man, served in the Marine Corps, married a fine wife and they will soon have their eighth child. He pastors downstate. Miraculously he considers me his friend to this day though he never has been quite as trusting as he used to be.
The whole thing is just a shameful memory to me now. If you are sometimes haunted by shameful memories from the past I commend to you an understanding of Christian theology. Meditation on the sins of your youth can be like drinking bleach. An understanding of the grace of forgiveness God offers freely through Christ Jesus his son is like a long cold drink of sweet, sweet water on a hot day.
As you can imagine, with a past like mine, I have a great appreciation for the grace of God and forgiving brothers. I fully understand how David the Psalmist must have felt when he wrote; “Remember not the sins of my youth.”