TITLE: Influences 4/30/14
By Richard McCaw
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In this world some connections become influences that lead us away from full commitment to God.
One day a wealthy young man, probably a member of the Council or Sanhedrin, suddenly ran up and knelt before Jesus, “Good Teacher,” he asked, “what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Deeply religious, he had come with a troubled heart.
Jesus corrected him. “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God!” Then to reveal how sinful he really was, Jesus listed some of the commandments.
He replied, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” In spite of his connections in the synagogue, he knew there was “something lacking.”
How did that story of the rich young ruler relate to my life? Let me give you some background.
Dr. Merlin Edwards was a tall, brown-skinned gentleman, with a warm smile and white hair curled on either side of his bald head. He owned the premises and held his chiropractic clinic there as well. His wife was a short, bespectacled white lady, with auburn hair parted down the middle, who walked with a limp. “Doctor,” as we all called him, had nursed her back to health through chiropractic manipulations. He had two daughters from a previous marriage; Lucy who lived with him and Marla, who lived next door. Lucy’s two children, Alex and Curlena, became our childhood playmates and every game we played seemed to fill some need in our hearts.
Red concrete steps led to the small front porch of our small rented cottage, left of the Edwards’ large residence. Our grandmother, recently arrived from New York, was then living with us.
Our cottage adjoined the maid’s quarters, where Benjy, the old gardener and handyman, lived. After a day’s work, Benjy could be seen sitting by the back gate strumming an old guitar, singing an old ‘pop’ song through large, ugly, brown cigar-stained teeth and smiling through his stubby unshaven face.
In those days, I made marshmallows and grew marigolds and peanuts on either side of the red stone steps of our cottage. With a child’s saw, hammer and nails I also built a toy bed for my sister’s doll. Who knows with those inclinations I might have become a scientist, an agriculturist, or even an inventor. In spite of my connections to nature and creative activities, an emptiness was there to be filled, and I was still seeking to satisfy a natural longing in my heart.
At home, after school, I buried myself in Hardy Boys’ mysteries and poetry books. The taste for words and the thrill of adventure transported me to other worlds. Soon, I began writing my own mystery novel. Every day I listened on the radio to a British mystery series “The Avengers," and during the summer vacation to “Superman,” and “Doctor Paul,” a midday soap opera, and in those activities I found some kind of temporary satisfaction.
I often enjoyed a swing in a branch of a large lignum vitae tree near the doctor’s residence and singing Billy Eckstein’s ‘Your Kiss of Fire,’ a popular love song in those days.
But the moral restraints of many of my classmates were being lured away and destroyed by friends and the rhythm of worthless songs. I could have taken that route. There were unusual students at school, who followed the more intellectual, complicated music of the classical masters. Like them, I could have connected to that route and perhaps found fame and glory. But there was something more for which I longed, but never quite knew what it was.
At twelve-and-a-half, I had been accepted to attend Wolmers’ Boys’ School, and soon joined the Junior Choir.
One day my entire class wrote a drama which we later performed on stage. Costumed for the night in a real police uniform, I had the last, important, amusing line to say. Next day, as students called jokingly to me, “Corpie Jones!” I felt a sense of importance, and inspired by the adulation of my classmates, I could have been led into a theatrical career.
Was there a hand shaping events in my life? Was I only a robot and was life only a gamble?
I was not more righteous than my schoolmates, but my mother’s principles of honesty, and the Word of God from Sunday School became a restraining force that connected me to a better path.
Consider the rich young ruler. Who knows what influences impacted him? Perhaps, his mother, as she sang Jewish chants at bedtime, or his father’s constant reading of the Torah. But he came to Jesus aware that his religious efforts had left him empty-hearted.
“Go, sell what you have and give to the poor,” Jesus told him, “and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” What a challenge! It seemed an impossible task!
Unable to surrender everything completely, he turned sadly away, for he had great possessions. It is amazing how connections can destroy or save our lives!
At the end of Jesus’ ministry, two other men, probably influenced by evil companions, were crucified on either side of Jesus’ cross. Both knew that they were sinners. With nothing left in this world, one prayed, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
Amid pain and agony, He chose the right connection. To him Jesus promised, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” That is the hope of every soul, who turns from sin and trusts Christ completely.
In the Hebrew Bible, among the many names and titles that describe God is the awesome name ‘Jehovah Tsidkenu’, the Lord our Righteousness. It confirms what Jesus told the rich young ruler: Only God is good! “We are all like an unclean thing,” declares Isaiah, “and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away”
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