By Jennifer Duncan

When I was small, I always struggled to be included in play with my older brother.  He had such great “grown up” ideas, that were even more appealing because they were often on the edge of the boundaries set by our parents.  It was his idea, for example, to “baptize” me in a ditch after a big rain one day.  Fortunately, our dad drove by, saw this unfolding drama and suggested that we go to the house instead.

One day, my brother had another great idea…to have a picnic with our friends and ask everyone to bring something to eat.  Afterwards, we were going to build a “fort” in the wooded lot behind our house.  This was exciting stuff!  We decided to invite one little neighbor boy, Robert, whom we considered a “baby.” We didn’t really want him to play with us, but we knew that his mother would send something really great for the picnic.  We were not disappointed.  Robert’s mother sent a carton of six soda pops!  We couldn’t believe our good fortune.

As the picnic wound down, we tried to send Robert home, since we had “big kid” activities planned.  We were just talking him into taking his empty bottles and heading home, when we noticed that our mother had opened the window next to our picnic spot, and was leaning on the windowsill, listening.  She didn’t like what she was hearing.  Like an angry Old Testament prophet, she called us out and laid down the consequences.  Either we included Robert in the play time after the picnic, or we could come in the house and she would have plenty of chores for us to do.  We included Robert.  We knew Mother was right, and in adjusting our behavior, we experienced satisfaction in doing the right thing!  And, in the process, we showed Robert the time of his life!

I thought of this incident recently when I was listening to a sermon about the book of Judges.  Time after time, God listened in on the evils that were being planned and carried out by His people.  And time after time, He used the oppression they endured in their sinfulness, to call them back to repentance.  In Judges 6:7-10, God also used the voice of a prophet to point out their sinful ingratitude.   God said, “I brought you out of bondage and delivered you…yet you have not obeyed My voice.” And once more, through repentance and the leadership of a judge, they experienced victory.

God desires that we find real transformation through His constant love and steadfast faithfulness.  Something is required of us, though, and that is submission to His direction.  It is when we truly “mourn” over our own sinfulness…truly desire His light to shine in every dark corner of our lives…and cooperate with His transforming work, that we experience the fullness of His grace and the power of His presence.  It begins, though, with a genuine sadness over sin, as suggested in Matthew 5:4.

I learned a valuable lesson from my mother on the day of our impromptu picnic.  I learned that God always sees the evil I plan, and that it never works for my good to carry it out.  Only a deep desire for change leads to the satisfaction His forgiveness brings.

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