“What Happens in Vegas..”
by Pastor Steve Schantz
Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Heb 12:9-11 NIV)
“But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” (John 12:32 NIV)
“What Happens In Vegas…”
Rural Upstate New York can be a lot of fun in the winter. Before snowmobiling captured our teenage attention outdoor fun involved skating, sledding, building snow forts, and of course many snow ball fights with siblings and neighbors. When my little sister was all of 8 and her brothers were 11 and 13, we decided to find out if “What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas”.
Under the cover of darkness one evening all three of us strayed from clearly spelled out family values. I’m not sure who threw the first snowball, (and as the oldest I don’t really want to remember all those details), but we decided to hurl snowballs at passing cars. It only made sense to launch our frozen ammo from a vantage point in the neighbor’s yard overlooking the roadway and across from our own home. Hearing that thump of a well packed snowball on a windshield, roof, or quarter panel was addicting. With each resounding thud we giggled and congratulated each other for our good marksmanship. Gravity and trajectory made up for muscle, and practice made perfect as we took aim from the neighbor’s property.
One unfortunate soul making an evening grocery run was bombarded going to and coming from the local general store. Upon his second ambush, the driver braked quickly and veered into my parent’s driveway. We dropped our next volley of ammunition and our hearts sank even as the frozen evidence still clung to his windshield. Fairly leaping out of the car and clearing our front porch steps, he knocked on the door and had a short but meaningful conversation with my father. Under the illumination of the front porch light we could make out angry body language as the driver pointed out our location across the road. While he drove away our summons came.
At the risk of sounding politically incorrect, each of us received timely, well placed, corporal punishment from my Father. In two words– it stung! My sister started to cry while her brothers were still in active therapy, so when her turn came both of us submitted requests to the high court of appeals in her defense. “Chris can’t even throw a snow ball Dad”, we moaned. “Most of her shots just went a few feet and rolled down the hill.” But alas, her intent was the same as ours, and like all children she would get better at being bad if left to practice. Although a total pardon was not in her best interest, she did receive a reduced sentence.
The notion that we can do as we please and not experience separation and pain from those we love has been around for a long time. An old lie is still a lie – and believing it still yields the same results. Distance from home only adds inertial weight to the mistake which finds its’ destructive mark. As rebellious children we have believed lies about God that keep us running back across the road into the far country. Missing His mark in life means attempting to make our own in all the wrong places. While we hope that the stupid things we’ve done won’t come back to haunt us, we have each experienced enough of life to know that we reap what we sow. With snow balls and in life what goes up must come back down, and what happens in Vegas doesn’t really stay there.
But our Father has reached farther than we can run. We were put here to grow up into children of God weren’t we? Surely we won’t all become a permanent version of every stupid thing we’ve done! We are meant to see where we’re headed and aim to do our neighbors good instead of harm. The one who entered our life on this planet once for every season and every man did so out of love for His creation and lifts us to a higher calling and higher reward in Himself. The one who came down for us was lifted back up with us in his arms. His discipline is always filled with hope and not hatred, diligence and not damnation. He knows the limits of our frame and counts the very hairs on our head.
Thanks Dad and Mom for helping us realize that what happens in Vegas doesn’t really stay there. Thank you also for teaching us that what happened in our savior’s life, death, and resurrection eclipses anything we could mess up across the road, or at home. Real Dads love forever!