Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Play By The Rules
When my bossy childhood friend Susie was four and I was five, she arrived at our house clutching sparklers. She needed matches. My Dad smoked, so these were an easy find. Susie grabbed the matches and headed outside. I knew this plan was wrong but complied. Call it peer pressure. Or fear—Susie had nine older brothers and could pack a mean punch. With a pit in my stomach, I followed her to our driveway.

So there we were, two tiny kids with a box of sparklers and my Dad’s stolen matches. Susie sat down, struck a match and lit my sparkler. As I held the sizzling stick, Dad’s authoritative words pounded inside my head; “Hold the sparkler AWAY from you! Don’t let go!” I repeated this mantra, half mesmerized by the pyrotechnics and half mindful of Susie. As she lit a second match, a spark singed her finger. Cussing, she dropped the match, igniting her lap. Suddenly she was burning, screaming, spinning in circles, feeding the flames.

My sparkler was lit and my conscience enflamed. I allowed this mess to unfold and now my friend was on fire, but Dad’s rules still resounded. I retorted, “But DAD, I MUST let go! My friend is going to die!”

I threw my sparkler down, grabbed the garden hose and drenched Susie in water. Sobbing, she stumbled up our driveway towards her brothers and neighbors, who heard her screams. An ambulance was called and she was taken away. The pit in my stomach became a boulder as neighbors asked me questions, passed judgement, called my parents, and left this five-year old to sort through stuff on her own.

Needless to say, Susie suffered serious burns and endured years of skin grafting. My seconds of hesitation caused her further injury, although fortunately not her life. But I had nearly let “rules” drown out my best judgement. Lesson learned.

I thank God for his presence in my life, and for giving me a safe place for self-examination and repentance.

Lisa Koehler

Appointed readings for today: Isaiah 58: 9-14, Psalm 86: 1-11, Luke 5: 27-32


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