It has been 80 years since the path gave way under their feet…
Maybe it was remembered because they were children and they were hurt so deeply. It is quite likely that adults had participated in the act. Many in the class had laughed. But 80 years later the story is still being told.
The family had rented the house across the street from my grandparents; a mother, father and at least a boy and a girl about 9 years old. They had accumulated enough money to buy a lot in an underdeveloped part of town. The father spent months collecting building material from odd jobs and alleys with which to build a home of their own. They finally moved with wheelbarrows and wagons the several blocks to their “new” home; no longer renters. It was by all accounts little more than a shack with the walls papered with newsprint, but it was theirs and they were proud to call it home.
It was almost Christmas and the elementary school teacher had organized a class gift exchange. Simple playthings but the children were excited to open their gifts in front of their classmates. Little windup toys, molded soldiers and then… The person narrating the memory to me paused reflecting the pain still felt for his classmates so long ago… instead of toys they received bars of soap. Their faces where dirty and they smelled of smoke and kerosene. Many of the children laughed. Some did not.
When Jesus responded to Peter’s challenge to invite him onto the water with the word, “Come.” Peter stepped over the rail of the boat. His eyes were kept forward on the apparition that claimed to be Jesus. Suddenly the reality of the storm entered his thoughts and pushed out this faith… and the path gave way under his feet. In the scripture passage it was Christ who reached down and lifted Peter up with the question, “Why did you doubt?”
I wonder at the rational of those who had purchased and wrapped the bars of soap as presents. Had they smiled in anticipation of the prank? I like to think that they regretted their act in the moment they saw the pain they caused. Sadly, most of us typically rationalize guilt away and therefore miss the opportunity to gain a bit of wisdom, even through another’s tuition.
Some of us will reach a point in our lives when, out of the blue, the path falls away. Maybe it will come in a moment of embarrassment or shame. It might possibly come with a phone call or a knock on the door; as a police officer I made some of those calls. In any case, when the enormity of life pushes out against your faith and the path falls away… don’t be afraid to reach out. Ironically, that is often when we find ourselves lifted up.