I used to be a little kid with a big mouth.
When I was in third grade, one of the more popular boys in my class was Bonehead.
Now, Bonehead wasn’t the name his parents gave him in the hospital, but everyone at school knew him as that. His real name was Peter. No one was really sure why that was his nickname. Some suspected Peter acquired the title when he fell from the top of the monkey bars on the school playground in 1st grade. Some point to the time in 2nd grade when he got “lost” on the field trip to the pumpkin farm. Regardless, the name sort of fits him.
Peter was one of the husky, stocky little boys. He wasn’t fat, just solid! Medium build, he represented the immovable object. He was always the anchor in Tug of War, a defender on the football field, and well-liked by everyone around him. Well, almost everyone.
His nickname, when said by his friends, gave him a sense of pride, a shared camaraderie. He would laugh as he was teased, joining in the fun, mostly by teasing them back. This was called the “Comeback”. One boy would hurl an insult and the recipient would try to top it with one of their own.
I saw the boys engage in this banter and I decided that one day, I would join in the fun. Peter was asked to go to the chalkboard to do the daily math problem. Peter worked hard and did his best but ultimately got the problem wrong. As he stood at the board, the teacher showing him his mistake, his smile began to fail. His shoulders slumped as the personal lecture continue. The teacher did not once tell him that it was a good attempt or point out the parts he did well on, so I thought I would add a little encouragement.
“Nice Job, Bonehead!” I yelled from my desk in the back of the room. As all eyes in the classroom turned toward me, I quickly realized my error. Nicknames are not uttered in the classroom, especially in front of adults. At the same time, I realized that my comment, although intended for encouragement, could be construed as a grand insult.
The look on Peter’s face told me that he was not encouraged. The teacher dismissed Peter to his seat and called me to the board to finish the problem. To add further insult, I completed the problem correctly, without help. This further irritated her, so I was told I would have to stay in a recess. This was not that big of punishment to me since a) I was an indoor kid anyway, b) I regularly lost my “recess” privileges and, most importantly, c) I was pretty sure I didn’t want to be caught alone by Peter or his friends.
My third suspicion was confirmed when I went back to my seat and saw a note on my desk. At first, I was excited because no one ever sent me a note. I unfolded it and it simply said, “WAIT UNTIL RECESS!”
I looked up and Peter caught my eye, giving me a menacing glare. I wanted to explain to him that I had just made plans during my recess time (maybe we can set something up at a later date?) but then the lunch bell rang.
I hung around my desk and walked out with the teacher, staying as close by her as I could. Unlike the students I teach nowadays, there was a strict code of not fighting in front of adults. I got my lunch, ate as far as possible from Peter then headed back to the classroom before the rest of the class was dismissed.
The next day, I criticized the teacher’s fashion sense which earned me another inside recess. On the third day, the weather was awesome and I decided to take a chance and go outside. I positioned myself about five feet from the teacher and watched some other kids play foursquare with an oversized red rubber ball. The day after that I watched some kid jumping off the swings about ten yards away from the teacher. The days went by and I began to expand the distance between the teacher and myself.
One day, while I was watching the boys play football, a shadow passed behind me.
“Whose the BONEHEAD now?” Peter growled. I looked for the teacher, but I couldn’t see her.
Peter and I both caught something that day. Peter had caught me and I had caught a beating. He hit me hard in the stomach and then on my back when I was doubled over. In playground fights, face-punching was not allowed because of the visible damage which would be questioned by adults. This was the second part of the code.
I did not report it. That was the third part of the code. Tattletales would automatically earn a repeat beating. I kept my mouth shut (for once) because I knew it was over. I had transgressed and I had paid a consequence. But, the next day I would be standing right by the teacher’s side. I would say the wrong thing to the wrong kid and the whole thing would start all over again.
The older I get, the more I am convinced Peter was right. I am a bonehead! I would mess up and then run to someone in authority to protect me from the horrible situation I deliberately placed myself in! And, if I am completely honest, I still do that today.
Mostly, I do this with God! In 1 Peter (no relation to my grade school classmate) 5:8, He writes “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
I do something boneheaded, which we should give its proper name – SIN. This SIN has two consequences. First, it breaks God’s law and creates a wedge between Him and me. Second, Sin in my life is usually caused by me thinking about myself more than someone else. This creates a wedge between the two of us.
This wedge causes me to draw closer to God. I ask for forgiveness, both from him and the other party involved. I make amends to the other party, if possible. I turned to God’s word on how I should have handled that situation as well as how I can avoid it from repeating. I praise God for his Grace and Mercy when he delivers me from that situation.
But then, time passes. I spend less time in His Word. My prayers are a little shorter and my worship is a little more rote. I take for granted his Grace and Mercy. I become complacent.
Then the Devil catches me! I look around and wonder where God went? There is an old saying that goes something like, “If you’re not as close to God as you once were, who moved?”
The Devil catches me and I catch a beating! The next day, I show up right by God’s side! I get as close as I can, seeking his protection. Everyday gets better and I slowly move away as the cycle of sin begins again.
So, Peter was right. I am a bonehead!
But, then again, God knows that. That’s why his son Jesus came to us. He lived a perfect life, staying closer to his Father that any other in history. He never strayed from his side, never giving in to sin, never harming another by his actions or his words. Then, although he was innocent, the devil caught him and he caught a beating, a beating meant for us. He died and rose again, promising to spare us from the punishment he endured for us.
I have also realized something else about 1 Peter 5:8. The closer you are to God, the more that Lion wants to devour you. Like my classmate, the Devil wants you as far away from God (The Teacher) as possible. The greater the distance, the more severe the beating. He knows that I am protected when I am in close proximity, so he bides his time and waits until I let me guard down.
I have a big mouth! I get into big trouble! But, I also have a big God! He can protect me if I stay close!
Prayer: Father God! Thank you for your grace and mercy that allows me not to catch the beating I deserve. Help me to stay by your side, especially during those times when I do not see any danger around me.
If these words have impacted you, please feel free to SHARE them with others.
Please comment if you consider yourself a BONEHEAD as well.
My Book “You Turned My Mourning Into Dancing” is available on Amazon