FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: Lessons learned behind the gym
Good day! We have a special “front porch” story this week – with an important lesson attached. Read on.
As a boy, I never liked to fight. Mama always said, “Just walk away.” I’d even do better. I’d take off and run, if needed.
But sometimes, a fight hunts you down. When I was about 9, I was down at what we call the “Y” – a nice recreation center in my old hometown with a gym on one end and an air-conditioned section with ping pong tables and a TV on the other. I was taking a break one day from playing basketball and was relaxing watching TV. A young fella I’d never seen before walked in, looked me over, and said, right out of the blue, “Hey, buddy, do y’think you can whup me?”
Stunned, I looked at the fella and saw immediately that he was at least two years older than I and bigger. You never know what you will say in those moments, but I just said “I dunno,” and continued to watch TV. After a few minutes, I walked out of the TV room and went to play a game of ping pong; but the walls around those rooms were all glass, so he easily found me again, and said, “No, tell me, do y'think you could whup me?”
I shrugged again and very nonchalantly said, “Prob’ly could,” my tongue obviously engaging without consulting my brain. As soon as I had spoken, the boy grabbed me by the shirt, said “Let’s go,” and dragged me out behind the gym. We weren’t alone either, because you can’t keep the news of a good fight away from the crowd. A dozen spectators gathered around before the fight started, many of them being friends of my big brothers Tim and Wayne. Once outside earshot of any adults, my newfound “friend” proceeded to beat the tar out of me. I don’t know any other way to say it. It was a pitiful sight.
But he made a mistake. During the whipping, he rared back and kicked me in the shin. That flat made me mad, for the first time. I didn’t mind getting beat up, but the kicking in the shin really hurt, and I started crying. I can’t explain what I did next. I went crazy, tearing into him like a hound dog on a pork chop, swinging at anything I could see move. It didn’t take long before the boy turned and ran away, perhaps remember something his own mom told him. But he didn’t get far. The older boys grabbed him and put him through some added embarrassment by making him admit that he really was scared of me and didn’t want any more of what he just got – which may have been worse than the whipping itself.
It’s a funny thing – I never saw that boy again. I never got his name, never learned where he came from, and never knew why he did what he did. It was just a fifteen-minute acquaintance, and he was gone as quickly as he came. But, when he left, he had learned a valuable lesson, one I hope he is still carrying with him: Being a bully isn’t all that cool, after all. That was what he was. He was just a bully. He found the littlest boy in the Y and picked a fight with him; and he never expected to go home with a black eye, bloody nose, and an ear as red as a beet – and some well-earned, real-life, bona fide humility to boot.
Yes, he went home with a healthy dose of humility. What the young man needed was what he got. He needed a whipping so that he could go about his life and figure that being humble is a lot better than being rude, cocky, obnoxious, and arrogant. He was just a boy, I know, but he was on that road to obnoxity for sure. But an ill-advised kick in the shin put him on the glad road to humility.
I’ve always marveled that the first recorded lesson Jesus teaches is that one: humility. The Lord expresses it this way, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Right out of the gate, the Lord begins teaching what it means to be a Christian and a follower of him.
“Let’s start,” He seems to say, “with learning to be humble.” That’s what “poor in spirit” means. It’s a kindness you have about you because you are willing to lower yourself to help others. It’s the ability to build up someone else without feeling it diminishes you at all. It's a bankrupt-ness that reminds you that without the Lord you are nothing at all. We have no room for even a little self-pride and arrogance.
I think if people would start out their day putting the Lord’s very first lesson into practice we all would be in good shape – and fewer people would walk in the door in the evenings with a black eye, bloody nose, and an ear red as a beet.
Coach Steven Bowen, a long-time Red Oak teacher and coach, now enjoys his time as a full-time writer and preacher of the gospel. In addition to his evangelistic travels, he works and writes for the Church of Christ of Red Oak at Uhl Road and Ovilla. Their worship times are 10 a.m. Sundays and 7:30 pm. Wednesdays. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call or text 972-824-5197.