Saturday, September 21, 2013

BUMPING by Glen Schmucker - lessons learned about the Ten Commandments while working on a farm.

BUMPING by Glen Schmucker as posted on Craddock Sermons facebook page.
Friday, September 20, 2013

Mister Lockett kept an old, beat up, white, early 60’s era pickup on his farm several miles west of Brownfield, Texas. It wasn’t road worthy. It was meant only for his hired help to get from one place to the other on his spread. He left the keys in the thing 24/7. No one who ventured to steal it would have made it far anyway.

Among its other features, the pickup had virtually no brakes. You had to plan your next stop way before you reached it. Even then, the only way to get the truck stopped was to rapidly pump the brakes.

One day, a friend and I were moving irrigation pipe for Mr. Lockett. We’d gotten to the farm in my friend’s car and then used the pickup to get around. As we were getting ready to leave for the day, my friend drove ahead on the turn row. I would follow in the pickup.

Turn rows are one-lane, hard-packed dirt that make getting around through the crops possible without damaging yourself or the crop. As I got ready to follow my friend I noticed that he had stopped on the turn row a few hundred yards ahead. That’s when the thrill of a risky trick popped into my brain.

I would get going as fast as I could and then come to a screeching halt in his rearview mirror. I just knew it would be funny.

I put the pedal to the metal. That’s when I remembered that there were no screeching halts left in the pickup. With the speed up to forty or fifty and with only about two-hundred yards left to close between my hood and my friend’s rear bumper, I decided it was time to apply the non-existent brakes. Otherwise, what was about to happen would involve far more than just bumping.

That’s where the freaking out part came in. With his car growing larger and larger in my windshield, I began to panic as I imagined plowing into my friend’s car. How would I explain that to him, the farmer or my dad for that matter? It wouldn’t be funny anywhere on the planet. Stupid? Yep. Fun? No way.

By some stroke of good fortune, I was able to get stopped and ended up only tapping my friend’s bumper. I’ve never forgotten that teachable moment and the broader application it has to a larger arena of ethics and morality.

Sometimes, even when we mean no harm, we start things we cannot stop. The better part of wisdom demands that we think a little more deeply before we commit to something over which we may lose control.

The Ten Commandments lay out the broader boundaries of good ethics. That hardly solves the problem. Most of our morality is not worked out in the clear, bright light of high noon. Most ethical dilemmas have to be wrestled out in the gray shadows of dusk where devils come out to play at night and the line that delineates the obvious distinction between right and wrong gets very blurry. 

When I find myself wrestling in the shadows, I’ve found three questions that help me find resolution about what choice I should make. I like to think of them as spiritual security clearances through which all matters of moral confusion must pass before they board my plane.

First, is the choice I’m about to make the most loving and just thing I can do for the most people? Love God and your neighbor, Jesus said. Would love and justice look kindly on what I’m about to do?

Second, is there any reason I feel a need to keep this behavior I’m considering a secret from those who know me best and love me most? We are no healthier than our secrets. The need to be secretive about any behavior should always be a red flag. Good ethics demands good teamwork. Flying solo in gray areas leads to ugly bumping and is not recommend for those who want to arrive safely at the right ethical destination.

Third, can I recommend what I am about to do as a way of life to those I love the most? To my children? To my grandchildren? To my spouse? Would I want any of them doing what I’m considering?

These three questions presume that we want to do the right thing and they certainly don’t resolve every moral dilemma we face. But, over the years, they have served to remind me that, before I put on the gas, it’s a good thing to make certain I have brakes that actually work. 

Or, in asking these simple questions, we may decide that, as fun as what we’re about to do sounds and how much it tickles our imaginations, we’ll just take it slow and get where we’re going with everyone who loves us and whom we love all in one piece.

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