Tuesday, June 15, 2010

ABC Gum and Other Sweet Lessons

Considering Justice's love affair with sports, we've spent a lot of time in gyms, bleachers, and open fields. Jot knows them all like the back of his hand. Spending hour after hour waiting for your brother to finish his last free throw, running play, or hat trick sends a little guy scouting for stuff to do. That's how Jot discovered that under every bleacher rests the discarded pink, green, or white glob of some one's gum. (Why people find it necessary to dispose of their gum in this way, I have no idea, but that is for another post.)

The joke in the parent/sibling cheering section we spend a lot of time with is that Jot has cleared nearly every bleacher of gum in a three county radius by the time he turned four. He saw nothing disgusting or wrong about finding ABC gum--you know, Already Been Chewed--and claiming it as his own. Actually he was not partial to bleachers. One night he found a barely-chewed piece in the trash can at church. When I realized what he'd done, I told him in no uncertain terms to get rid of the nasty piece of garbage N-O-W, Mister. Imagine my surprise ten minutes later when I observed from my seat across the dining room of the local McDonald's, his little 4-year old jaws chomping away on that pilfered piece of refuse . Since no one else sat in the area, I said to him from my chair, "I told you to throw that gum away."

"I did throw it away. Then I got it back out."

At this I got up from my chair to enforce the edict when I watched him wage a mental tug-of-war between obeying his momma or making a run for it. The devil on the left shoulder won, apparently, because as I came around the yellow plastic swivel chair, he made a break for the front of the restaurant. Unfortunately, the floors were slick with a combination of the grease that permeates everything in a restaurant and the snow that had melted from our shoes. Down he went, sprawled eagle on his belly, just as two elderly ladies rounded the corner. The force of the blow to his tummy shot the gum from his mouth, launching it to land just inches from the feet of the women who had stopped at the sight of the pint-sized man on the run. Jot army-crawled the remaining two feet that separated him from the escaped gum and scooped in unceremoniously back into his mouth.

"Oh, honey, yucky. Don't eat that now--it's dirty," said one woman.  Oh, Granny, you have no idea.

So, when Jot turns his nose up at my tuna casserole or balks at choosing something green (besides the Jello) on the Chinese buffet, or complains that there is (one of our very own) dog's hair on his plate, I remind him of this story. If he can enjoy a piece of gum snatched from, not one but two trash cans, and a filthy fast food floor, he should be able to talk himself into eating anything.

June is National Candy Month and that got me thinking about some things in relation to Jot's fondness for all things sweet. Jot, just like his momma, is pretty good at justifying events or circumstances to fit his own wants, desires, and agendas. He calls a yucky piece of trash a treasure, but refuses to eat the good food I put in front of him. In Acts 10: 15, God tells Peter, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." If God says something is clean--it is. And if God says something is impure--it is. It isn't up to me to judge or even weigh in on the matter. God's the one who gets to decide.

But how many times do I look at a person and judge them to be clean or impure based solely on what I can see on the outside. Surely that cute gal in the full cotton skirt and flats is clean and the guy in the checkout in front of me with the leather and tattoos is impure, right? Or that older lady sitting in the sanctuary twenty minutes before service starts, she's clean, certainly. But that guy hanging around talking to the rough-looking lady at the gas station? Probably nothing but trouble. How often I look at the situation and size up in my own mind whether someone is clean or impure by my perception of a person or of events.

Or maybe it is something I want or something I want to do. I know in my heart that God says it is impure, but do I still, like Jot, buckle to the temptation and call it "clean"? Or how about the flip-side of that--when God asks me to do something, making it "clean" by default, and I run the other way, screaming "Unclean! Unclean!" (Remember Jonah's problem with God's calling him to those nasty Ninevites?)

In life and in all things that matter, God is the One who gets to perform the white glove test. He is the only Judge worth ruling whether something is clean or impure. What looks to us like gum from a trash can might be the sweetest reward if given the chance. And what we think is the tastiest candy this side of Willie Wonka's factory might just end up being ABC gum on the bottom of a wooden bleacher.

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