A Shot in the Grass
When I was a little boy, one of my favorite toys was a lever-action rifle. Air was forced into a chamber when you cocked the gun. The sound of a rifle firing was heard when the trigger was pulled. The only problem with the toy gun was the strength it took to cock the gun. In order to operate it, I had to place the end of the barrel on the ground, hold the butt of the rifle and then work the lever. This must have had more to do with a flaw in the manufacturing of the gun than it did my strength, because when I pulled the trigger it had a kick to it and projected a powerful force of air out the barrel. This problem did not disappoint me. You see, I soon learned that whenever the ground was moist, some dirt, mud, and grass plugged up the barrel. The force of air was great enough to fire the muddy projectile a fair distance. One day, while playing with my friend Russ, I shot him with my rifle while it was loaded with mud. The blast produced a pattern on his coat and made it look like he had been shot and bleeding brown blood. “Cool!” Russ said. He wanted to trade me his M-16 rifle for my simple lever-action rifle. Reluctantly, I traded it for the day.
Soon afterward, my dad was doing some side work welding for a local farmer in our barn. I just had to show him what my rifle would do. Unfortunately, it picked up a small rock in the barrel with the mud and when I fired it against the cement blocks of the barn the blast not only blew away the paint, but left a small chipped out crater in the wall. My dad told me just how dangerous it would be to shoot one of my five siblings with the rifle loaded with a rock and mud. He made me promise never to shoot them. I did promise and for the longest time all I shot were trees, the shed, the barn, etc. which represented wild Indians or Nazis or Japanese soldiers or my favorite victims: southern rebels.
Then one day my little brother and I were being so rowdy in the house my mother said, “It has stopped raining, so you two boys go outside and play.” Again, it was a Saturday and my dad was working in the barn welding. My brother loved to shoot my rifle, but was four and a half years younger than me and could not cock the gun no matter how hard he tried. That meant I had to cock it for him every time he shot, and he wanted to shoot it all day long. This got to be very annoying. I cocked the gun in the mud. He kept crying, “Let me have it. Let me have it.” So, I let him have it right between the eyes. His face was covered with mud and he ran down the hill to the barn screaming to my father. I was up on the hill, so I could see my dad roll out from under the vehicle. He got up and lifted up the welder’s shield on his head. He checked out my brother, wiping the mud from his face and sent him crying to my mother in the house.
Next came the moment of truth. Would my dad keep his promise? I had no worries about that. He removed the welding hat from his head and hung it on a hook. From the next hook over, he removed the long wooden paddle with which I was all too familiar. As he marched up the hill, I knew I was going to receive a worse whipping than Sherman gave Atlanta. I had to do something to hold my ground. So, I put the end of the barrel in the muddy hillside and cocked the rifle. Luck was going my way. The wet grass was slowing my dad’s stride and he did no see me reload. Now, my dad was six feet two inches tall and weighed about 200 pounds. I wisely decided that shooting him was only going to make things worse. Lowering the rifle and swinging it around my back, I discharged the load into the grass. Then I submitted to my well deserved punishment. Let me tell you, my dad was a stern disciplinarian. He provided the discipline and I provided the stern.
Spankings were used mostly to get my attention. While I was whipped, Dad would lecture me. “Daniel, I thought…” WHACK! “…I told you…” WHACK! “…never to shot anybody…” WHACK! “…with that toy gun…” WHACK! With each swing of the “board of education” both my feet lifted off the ground. Finally, I learned my lesson and was so glad I was not dumb enough to shoot my father.
There are many spiritual lessons that can be gleaned from my experience. One of them is that God disciplines those whom He loves as sons (Heb. 12:5-12). Yet, many have failed to learn this important lesson. Far too often when we get ourselves in trouble or hurt others by our sins, we wish to deflect our guilt by fighting against God. “His rules are impossible to keep.” “He does not understand what we are going through.” However, His commandments are not grievous (1 Jn. 5:3). His son was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).
Saul of Tarsus learned that it is impossible to fight against God. When Jesus met Saul on the road to Damascus He said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?…I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 9:4,5). Another example is that of Israel. The children of Israel fought God and Moses every step through the wilderness, even threatening to run away back to Egypt. After forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the rebellious generation was gone. Now, a disciplined Israel was ready to take the Promise Land. Later, generation after generation would turn away from God to pursue idols. Again and again, God would discipline them. Finally, He sent them into Babylonian captivity. Seventy years later, a remnant returned to the Promise Land never to go after idolatry as a nation again. They learned their lesson.
After several months, my dad did give me back my prized toy rifle. This time, I kept my promise faithfully and never ever shot anybody again. Well, there still where lots of renegade Indians, Nazis, and Johnny Rebs to shoot.
— Daniel R. Vess