How Do We Know?

Ronnie Mincey

Mincey’s Musings
Year One, Week Nineteen

My pastor recently asked me to teach the adult Vacation Bible School class at our church this summer. I asked him if there was a book or specific topic he wished me to address. He said that he could get me a book or that I could choose one of my own.

I came home and examined my bookshelves. I found a book by Bill Hybels entitled Who You Are When No One’s Looking: Choosing Consistency, Resisting Compromise. What a fascinating subject, I thought.

My pastor asked me last evening if I had come up with a topic. I told him about this book, and he said, “The secret life.” I was given the stamp of approval.

I have several acquaintances and a few friends. One of my best friends in this world was Mark Martin, but until he died I didn’t realize how little I knew about him. His mother gave me the opportunity to deliver a eulogy at his funeral, and people in his home town were amazed at how different my friendship with him was than his relationship with his friends and family back home. I did not know where he kept the key to his house, nor did I know his mother’s name, but his family did not know the extent of his well-developed sense of humor. It amazed me how the one and only Mr. Martin shared different aspects of his personality in his hometown and in Union County.

We have discussed in Sunday School how that many times we only know people in the context in which we see them. How do other church folks and I act when we are away from church? How differently do we act at home, at school, or at work? How do we interact with our families and friends in different situations?

There was once a student in the fourth grade. To his teachers, he was a well behaved student who made good grades. He had good attendance. He was not a good looking kid (some would have called him downright ugly) and therefore not the most popular child in school. He was scrawny, wore glasses, and his clothes were not exactly ever in style at the same time.

There came a day when this child was absent from school on the first and only day of his fourth grade year. When he returned to school the next day, he never told any of his classmates why he had been absent. He cried not because of why he was absent but because his teacher had taught long division that day and he was lost when he returned. The teacher paired him with another student who caught him up to speed.

Why did this child miss school? The boy’s father was an alcoholic, and he had come home drunk on the previous night. The boy saw his father point a pistol to his mother’s head. In terror, the boy ran out the back door. About the time he reached the bottom of the steps, he heard a shot. For a few moments he thought his father had killed his mother, until the back door flung open and his mother came sailing down the steps. He and his mother snuck to a neighbor’s house. The neighbor took them to spend the night with one of the mother’s cousins. They had left in haste with only the clothes on their bodies, but the mother borrowed a Bible from her cousin so she could conduct her nightly devotion. Before she went to bed, she found a chip of paint in her hair that fell when her husband shot into the ceiling.

The next morning, the two returned home to find a sick husband and father in bed. Remembering little if anything of the night before, the father wanted to know why his son was not in school. He allowed he would drive the boy to school, but a massive hangover and accompanying sickness prevented the father from possibly killing his son and himself in a drunk driving accident.

Few if any of his teachers knew much about this boy’s home life. The child told his teacher part of the reason he had been absent, but not all, only that he had missed school because his father was drunk. To many people the father was a serious natured man (some would have even said “sober” without recognizing the irony). He was honest, hardworking, and paid his bills. Nevertheless, he had an addiction and “a secret life” of which many were unaware.

The moral of the story—people are not always what they seem, and many children and adults live under the shadow of addictions other than their own.
Next week I’ll discuss the meaning of character, and how our good character can help us overcome the shortfalls we sometimes find in others.

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