“Don’t touch each other. Don’t even think of touching each other.”
We had just pulled out of the church parking lot and these were threatening words to my sons, Jeff and Adam, ages 4 and 3 years respectively, who were engaged in a finger battle in the back seat of the car. They creepy-crawled their fingers to an imaginary line separating them. And then they attacked. What started with fingers ended up in a slug fest.
I pulled the car over to the side of the freeway, got out of my seat and walked around the car to the side where Adam was sitting. Reaching across Adam, I drew an imaginary line between the two boys. It came with a warning: “Do NOT even think about crossing this line. If you do, you will be spanked.”
Returning to my driver’s seat, I put on my blinker and pulled onto the California freeway, tilting my rearview mirror and craning my neck to see what would happen next.
Jeff started. His index and middle finger wormed their way to the “middle line.” Adam did the same from his side. My sons were within one-quarter inch of each other, a standoff of fingers, ready to strike.
And then it happened. Jeff crossed the “line” and attacked Adam’s fingers, twisting them into a knot. Adam wailed.
I pulled off the freeway, unbuckled Jeff’s seat belt and spanked him. Today I would be facing jail time. The point is, once the words were out of my mouth, I needed to follow through. If not, all future threats from me would become no more than pointless ramblings. It was one of the few things in parenting I tried to do God’s way. Ecclesiastes 5:5 warns us: “It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it.”
Our government recently saw the devastating consequences of meaningless words.
In 2013 Bashar Al-Assad, President of Syria, used chemical warfare against his citizens. He had been warned that “crossing that red line by using chemical warfare would bring about catastrophic consequences.” The difference between the warning Jeff and Adam received and
Assad’s warning was that I meant it. President Obama did not.
A few weeks ago, Syria’s dictator dared us again. To him, our “red line” was an idle threat. But this time, it wasn’t. After Assad used chemical weapons on innocent children, President Trump ordered an attack on two of the Syrian chemical airfield locations.
I know that what I did on that California freeway pales in comparison to what President Trump did, but empty words are epidemic in this generation. How many times do we hear parents threaten—even using the “1-2- 3” countdown—and then do nothing? Friends share the juicy news they promised they wouldn’t. Commitments to volunteer at church are cancelled for an invitation to golf or a shopping spree.
Too many times, promises aren’t followed and threats are hollow. Matthew 5:37 gives us Jesus’ perspective on such words: “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” There are no pinky promises, no crossing our fingers, no I swears, no “Just kidding” and no crossing over on the line on the seat.
You say it? You mean it.
End of discussion.