‘Honestly, I get it’

Published 7:05 pm Friday, June 3, 2022

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By Charles Qualls

A man found himself on a deserted island. The longer he was there, the more he stared at a distant shore and decided he could probably swim over to land. He began to train for the long swim, knowing that, at present, he wasn’t ready.

One day, he decided he was strong enough and practiced enough. Weather conditions were good. It was time now to take his rescue into his own hands.

Just as he got ready to take off, a scorpion said, “Hey… as long as you’re going to swim over there, could I hitch a ride?” The man said, “You’re a scorpion. You’ll sting me, and I’ll die.”

The scorpion said, “Oh no. I promise I won’t. I just want to get over there, the same place you want to go. I’ll sit up on your back and ride. I won’t do a thing to you.” So, the man said, “Okay. Hop on and let’s go.”

Off the man went. His training was good. He was a strong swimmer now. Against the currents he went. Every time he checked, the landmass of shore was getting closer and closer.

Just as he reached a point where he had only a few more yards to swim, the scorpion stung him.

“Ouch. Why did you DO that to me?” the man said. “You said you wouldn’t. Now, I’m going to die.” To which the scorpion said, “You knew when I asked you for a ride exactly what I was. It’s what we do. I’m a scorpion. I sting people.”

Maybe you’ve heard yourself say something like this: “I wish I’d known then what I know now. I wouldn’t have done that.” You’ve probably said, “I wish I’d said something earlier. I’m so sorry I left that hanging with you and caused so much hurt.” Or perhaps you’ve said, “I never thought of what this did to anyone around me. I was just doing what I wanted to. Now I get it.”

You’ve said these things. So have I. Churches have said similar things in apology or lament. Nations have, too.

None of us set out to be bad, probably. Yet none of us lives up to the greatest hopes God has for us, either. People. Churches. Nations. We all fall short.

If we’re being honest with ourselves, and it’s about time we were honest with ourselves, we usually do know when we are sinning. There are a lot of things about our spiritual lives that are best learned and even “only” learned in the rearview mirror.

Most of our shortcomings, our sins, aren’t that way. Deep down, we know most of the time. If I say the wrong thing, I usually have at least a split-second to stop myself. If you take a shortcut or do something that will fracture a relationship, post insensitive things on social media, you probably knew better. If I get tempted to steal something or take advantage of a situation or start to be mean to someone, there is probably a voice jockeying for my attention trying to get me not to.

For Christians, we call it the Holy Spirit. We call this a conscience. Yet we do things anyway. Psalm 51 is one of the seven penitential psalms of our biblical collection. It is attributed to King David, and we might relate.

He knew better than to look at another man’s wife from his rooftop. From the youngest of ages, we are taught when to keep our pants up. He knew not to send her husband, Uriah, to his death in battle just to get rid of him.

But, he did these things anyway. This psalm is so powerful, whoever wrote it. Let’s all admit that any one of us could have written it. We all could write it, if we’re being honest just now.

This is the heart of a person who has finally heard another voice than their own. Another voice other than their inner 3-year-old, because the voice of “I want, I want, I want…” is usually the one that talks us into the shortcut.

The unchecked voice within us that screams, “I want!” is the voice that often causes the omission. The thing we failed to do. Or the thing we did that was wrong. It leads us to commit ethical or moral gaffes. This writer has heard the voice of the Spirit of God and responds now by saying, “Honestly, I get it.” We do well to let these words be our own.

Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.