The Line in the Sand - Introduction
Picture four Boy Scouts, working on a project in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere. The purpose of the mission, to clear the creek bed of a tangle of twisted branches and unsightly garbage, was progressing quite nicely until an argument began. How should we complete the next phase of the mission? What started as a simple question quickly escalated into an extreme difference of opinion. Loud words were spoken. Curses and demeaning shouts were exchanged. Then the taunting began. One boy against three hardly seems a fair set of odds.
Battle lines were drawn. One side hurling volleys of insults, the other side fighting for some victory in the battle, no matter how small. Three against one. The lone boy began to retreat as the insults increased in damage factor. Leave, run, hide, return fire. He was angry and frightened and with wounded pride picked up a hatchet and started to walk away up the hill to escape the war.
The three boys saw the damage, and with some joy over having won, attempted to coax the lone boy back into the project. Fight, win, back to work. The discouraged boy, still beaten down in battle, and determined to win something in the war, decided to continue the battle-of-the-moment. "Hit them when they are softening," he thought. The coaxing quickly returned to insults, which hurt worse than before. The solitary, angry, hurting young boy tried to defend his position by returning verbal fire. After several rounds were exchanged, the hatchet was lifted in his right hand, firmly gripped by angry fingers. The intention was to bury the hatchet . . . into his friend, George.
The battle line was already drawn. Clearly marked in the open field. On one side, three boys thinking they were right, on the other, one boy thinking he was right. No chance of compromise. Fight. To the death.
How does this happen? What can we do to change the outcome of these events? Let's look at the dynamics for a minute.
Four boys around the age of 13 are working on a project in the out-of-doors. Improvising on a good-will service project to the benefit of the landowner. No supervision.
These boys were not trained in relational dynamics. They were simply acting on what they knew. Instinct. Self-preservation is taught to our young people in school and provided as an instinct by our Creator. The boys all knew something was wrong, but they did not have the insight to provide a desirable outcome. Adult intervention would have prevented this from escalating by simply providing a leader and a mediator. Since that was not provided we find ourselves looking at an angry boy with a hatchet in his hand, ready to throw it at his friend, with the hope in his heart that the hatchet will kill him.
What can I do when this happens to me? When I stand before you in a conflict that seems to have no resolution, what can I do then? The line is drawn. The stand is taken. The choice is made. The action is committed.
As the hatchet left my hand, my anger was rage. I was not thinking clearly, clouded by the all-consuming fire of anger. I watched the hatchet fly through the air in slow motion, arcing gracefully toward my goal of inflicting pain on another human being. At that moment, I wished I could take it all back, all the way back to the point of the argument. Conflicting within my soul was fiery anger, burning at the heart of who I am, and tender compassion, deeply caring for the very friend that I was trying to hurt.
I was on my side of the line. I made the choice to become angry. I made the choice to say hurtful things. I made the choice to leave. I made the choice not to forgive the other boys, my friends. I made the choice to hurl a deadly weapon at my friends.
God rescued me that day. He did not allow my actions to physically harm anyone. As I watched the hatchet fall to the ground near the other boys, I cried and ran up the hill to escape the pain of failure, afraid to show them my weakness, the real me.
The line ... in the sand.