One time when I was about eight years old, I was outside with my dad when I heard a bird chirp a three-note melody: “tweet-tweet-tweet.” I looked over at my dad and said, “That bird’s singing a song,” and then I imitated it with a whistle — “tweet-tweet-tweet.” My dad’s face warmed; he gave a soft, kind smile; and his eyes twinkled.
The sky was dark outside of Petal Middle School because of a torrential rainstorm that was bearing down on our small town. All of the students were rushing to avoid the rain – all of them except me. I stopped by the gutter where water was gushing over the edges, put my head under the waterfall, drenched my hair, and then slicked it back. I thought it was hilarious. My teacher did not. When I walked into class, my teacher saw my soaking wet hair and loudly ordered me to get out of the room. I walked across the hallway…
I was in a bad mood on my way to church last weekend, and it had everything to do with the woman driving in front of me. She was going about five miles an hour down a one-way street in Washington, D.C., while looking at her phone.
When I was 18, I told the most elaborate lie of my life and I did it because I was lazy. I worked at the meat department of a grocery store where the assistant manager, Harold Johnson (a pseudonym), was known for recruiting meat department employees to stock shelves. That wasn’t my job and I was determined to avoid it.
A few weeks after my first child was born, I told my dad off. At the heart of my complaints was one central failure: Ever since I was a kid, he had failed to show up.
One night during my first year of marriage, my wife and I got into a big argument that I haven’t forgotten. It’s not the argument that was memorable though — it’s the way it ended.
One time I was at the bus stop and I saw a woman take her daughter by the ponytail, pull up, and force her to move down the sidewalk. As the girl walked forward, she tried to reach up and pull her mother’s hand away, to no avail. As the little girl cried and begged her mother to stop, a man standing nearby laughed about it, and the mother began laughing, too.
I was five years old when I walked into my mother’s bedroom and told her I wanted to give my life to Christ. We got down on our knees beside the bed and I asked Jesus into my heart. After that, I proudly told everyone that Jesus had saved me, but my pride slowly diminished over the years.
I did not enjoy going to church last Sunday. I took my three kids to the service by myself because my wife wasn’t feeling well. The journey started out well enough — we were in the car and only running 12 minutes behind when we pulled out of the driveway. But it was all downhill from there.
I didn’t have many friends in middle school, but I had Jeffrey Mitchell, and I needed him. Some of the popular boys had started making fun of me, so I was growing increasingly uncomfortable in my own skin. Jeffrey didn’t seem to care. We spent time at each other’s houses, hung around each other during recess, and sat next to each other when we had the same classes. This included Mrs. Silkman’s seventh grade English class where unfortunately, our friendship came to an abrupt end one day.
During my junior year at the University of Southern Mississippi, I invited a Yugoslavian student to a campus worship service that was organized by my church, which was predominately white. After the meeting, we were talking in the hallway, and he noticed a group of mostly black students meeting across the hallway. Then he asked something that caught me off guard. “Why do the white Christians and the black Christians meet separately?”
This morning, I was driving my six-year-old daughter to school, and she said, “Daddy, what are we going to talk about?” As morbid as it may seem, I decided to talk to her about what to do if she’s in a situation where someone is shooting a gun in her school. She wanted to know what kind of person would do that, and I told her that it’s the kind of person whose heart is full of Satan.
Last weekend was pretty intense at our house. One of my six-year-old’s front two teeth was ready to fall out, but she was terrified of the pain she might feel if it did.
The other day, I was just minding my own business, trying to get to work, when a woman in a black Lexus brought out the worst in me. I was trying to park in a garage in downtown Washington, D.C., which is a challenge. I have little time to get to the garage after dropping off my daughter at school, and if I’m a minute late, the price goes up from $14 to $21. Time is of the essence.
When I was in my 20s, I was obsessed with the fear that I was not actually saved — that my so-called “faith” was nothing but an elaborate web of self-deception that would end in eternal damnation.