By Randy Sawyer
Muffled laughter drifted up through a hole in the ceiling from which my foot protruded. Mixed emotions surged at the thought of my family’s muted ridicule, frustration and anger. The whole thing (maybe “hole” thing) started when they couldn’t wait for me to finish a nap.
Choosing Not to Act
My wife and kids were anxious to get Christmas holiday decorations out of storage and into place throughout the house. The Christmas boxes were stacked in one of the dormers of my son’s bedroom.
Putting a floor in that dormer was one of those “honey-do” projects I put off. My wife argued that we needed additional storage space, and she urged me to get materials and floor that area. But I’m a busy pastor! Besides, I’m a balancing artist, which comes in handy when maneuvering in tight areas where a misstep might send me plunging through the sheetrock between rafters into the room below.
I guess you know what’s coming next.When putting away Christmas boxes the year before, I used my carefully honed balancing skill and placed each container length-wise across the rafters. I closed the door and congratulated myself on having once again figured out how to utilize needed storage space without investing money and time doing it the right way. I promised my wife before next season I would get the job done.
This brings me back to the moment in question. Before my nap, my wife and kids urged me to get the decorations for them. I don’t remember what I said, but I’m sure it had something to do with being tired and needing to be left alone for a while, and then I added, “And don’t touch those boxes; you’ll fall though the ceiling and break your neck. I’ll get them out when I get up.”
My wife was the instigator, but my teen son put the plan into action. He slipped into the dormer, got the boxes, handed them to his sisters who brought them downstairs to their mother, who began the process of unpacking and assembling.
Suddenly, I was startled by a terrible commotion. Wiping sleep from my eyes, I moved into the living room where my three girls stared at a clearly defined ceiling crack. My son had missed one of the rafters and the sheetrock gave way beneath his weight.
“I told you to wait on me!” I thundered. No answer. Not one word. They stood there with guilt etched across their disobedient little faces. I stormed up the stairs and yelled something almost incoherent at my son who sheepishly retreated to join the girls, while I proceeded to retrieve the boxes.
Did you know that anger might cause you to lose your balance? I didn’t. But it happened to me that day! While picking up one of the storage containers, my foot slipped off a rafter and plunged through the sheetrock right at the same spot my son’s misstep caused the crack. My family knew better than to laugh out loud. Never laugh at an angry man. I retreated to my bedroom, slamming the door behind me as a witness against them.
After calming down, I realized the hilarity of the moment, and we all had a good laugh together. Better still, the incident served as a great sermon illustration a few weeks later, and after hearing the story two men from the church volunteered to repair the broken ceiling, and two others offered to floor the infamous dormer.
Of all the things I learned from that incident, the one that stands out most is the importance of doing something now. I should have put flooring into that dormer. I should have responded to my family’s request to get Christmas decorations down. I should have…ad nauseum.There are many “should haves” in our lives.
Choosing to Act
Why do we persist in procrastination? Maybe it’s because we are boastful of tomorrow which, of course, is evil James tells us (James 4:14-17). Or maybe we put things off because of laziness. Or could it be faithlessness? I don’t know why we…I put things off like I do. But I know this—no one ever made a difference in this world or in the lives of others who didn’t finally decide to do something.
One of my favorite authors is Andy Andrews. His recent book, The Lost Choice,encourages readers to seize the moment and by deliberate acting, make a difference in the world. In one riveting passage, Andrews describes a conversation between German industrialist Oskar Shindler and his Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern. Shindler, though not an especially religious man, is credited with having saved 1,098 Jews from extermination during the Holocaust. He did so at considerable risk to his own life. Stern questions Shindler, “Why do you want to risk your life every moment as you do?” Why would a man risk everything for another man? Eventually Shindler offers this response…
I try to tell myself that what I am doing is perfectly logical. After all, if you see a dog about to be crushed under a car, wouldn’t you help? And yet, I know that this course is fraught with peril and certainly has no support among my peers…But at some point, a man must stand and act. Not hesitate. Not consider the danger…I bought an enamelware factory in order to get rich on the backs of a cheap Jewish labor force. And I did it! I had four million marks in suitcases when we left Krakow. But something happened to me. In any case, I decided to act. And I have two million now (pp.31-32).
At some point, a man must do something. James comments, “For to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” We can’t keep discussing pros and cons of doing FAITH or going back to school or investing our lives and resources in missions or building a graduate school or reconciling with our brothers or winning our neighbors to Christ. It’s time to do something. If we fail to act, someone may fall through the ceiling and break their neck, or worse!