Throwing Water on the Fire

The other day, I was doing a favour for a friend and driving her child home from school.  With most of my mind occupied with dinner preparations, unsewn Cubs badges, and half-finished blogs (ahem), I asked him how his day had gone, and his response was:

“Yeah, it was…good…ok…sort of, I guess…(heavy pause)…”

“Soo,” I said, quickly getting my thoughts realigned and putting on my stand-in mum hat, gearing myself to offer whatever wise-mum words my friend would have offered, “Are you sure?”

“Weellll, so in Spanish class, we had to write down stuff about each other…and this guy wrote something funny about me…well, not really funny…actually more mean than funny…it was not very nice…”

Outrage started rising in me immediately, as I could clearly hear what he was trying not to say – some smart-mouthed punk had definitely written something nasty.  I tried to quickly prepare soothing words of support while all I could see in my head was myself towering over this unknown aggressor like an outraged Gandalf and giving him a thundering piece of my mind.

But before I had a chance to say anything, he continued:

“So I decided when it’s my turn to write something next time, I’m going to write down something nice about him…you know, like throw water on the fire, because fire and fire, well, that’s not a good combination, is it?

“Ah, absolutely, you’re absolutely right,” I replied somewhat dazed by the maturity of his response, “Because trading insult for insult never really ends, does it?”

“Yeah, it’s like a cycle that just keeps getting worse and worse.“  And while I’m still alternating between pride and surprise at his wisdom, he then continues, “Cause I remembered in RE we were talking about ‘an eye for eye’, and the teacher said that actually we shouldn’t really be acting like that. Instead, we should either walk away if we can, or do something good in return.  And I was in Spanish class so I couldn’t really walk away, but I could do something nice.”

By this point, my heart was near to bursting with pride and admiration…with a rather large dose of shame thrown in.  And as is always the case with true humbling, it was at the hands of someone who had absolutely no intention of causing it.  Here was this twelve year old boy, living out words that I thought to “teach” him.

That half-finished blog I mentioned earlier?  Given the week it is, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to know that it centered around an election, bullies and unwanted outcomes.  And despite the fact that I did not vote for Trump, I couldn’t help taking umbrage at some of the social media bites out there.  The one that stuck in my side most was actually a throw away comment by an acquaintance, no doubt looking to score points with their pithy, worldly-wise cynicism: “The perils of democracy in a nation of idiots.”  Never mind the fact that Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote (ie she received more individual votes than Trump),  I realised I was still angry, or maybe a better word is despairing, because that pithy phrase represented the very attitude towards humanity that much of Trump’s campaign has propagated over the past year.  That careless disregard for members of humanity…that lumping of individuals into one easily identified and vilified mass.

There is now so much negativity out there on the internet about this week’s results and about the future – it’s become a bit of a competition.  Who can come up with the cleverest, funniest, most insulting quips/images/vidoes…  Even worse now is the actual violence arising with riots, shootings…

The cycle of insult and accusation really is a never-ending, ever-increasing inferno…until someone chooses to throw water on the fire.

Time and again I’ve heard, and pronounced myself, that God can use everyone, work in any situation.  But when push comes to shove, when faith is put to the test, how many times has my response been…shove, and shove harder!  How many times have I used the rationalisation that in this “real-life” scenario, with this particular person, the law of the jungle is what really rules because they wouldn’t respond to God’s grace, they wouldn’t understand it.   

Well, God reminded me this week that He really can and does work in anyone to get His work done, to carry His message.  And this week, He used a twelve year old boy to remind me what simple, obedient faith can accomplish.

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