I do water aerobics three days each week. It is men only and most of us are older gentlemen. Just a bunch of old vets and patriots. We begin each session with “God Bless America”, and always end by standing at attention with our hands over our hearts and sing the National Anthem. We call ourselves the “Pot=bellied Patriots”. We have actually done a youtube rendition of the National Anthem. We ain’t bad for a bunch of old guys. We sing at churches and open political rallys some times.
We celebrate birthdays and a few weeks ago, we celebrated the anniversary of one of our guys getting wounded in Nam. That was the last of his many wounds that got him sent home. He was 19 then. So we celebrated the wound day and ate pizza at Cici’s. We are an interesting group to say the least.
A few days ago, we were sitting in the hot tub (it’s built for about 10) and we were discussing how we were raised. We all agreed that parenting now is not very recognizable from when we were being raised. No one worried about us becoming traumatized. We worried about getting our butts torn up. My dad was not too concerned that I would be scarred for life, but rather that I be respectful of my elders and people around me. Interestingly none of us went to integrated schools but we were taught by our parents how to be inclusive and understanding of other ethnic groups (I don’t use the word races, racism, racist). We are All the same race. We are not all of the same ethnic background.
As we were talking one of the men made comments on how the church influenced his upbringing. He began to talk about what he was not allowed to do by his church. He said. “man we couldn’t do much of anything without the fear of being put out of our church. He talked a bit about stuff he wasn’t allowed to do. He looked at me and said, “You are a preacher, how did you grow up”. I replied to him. “I grew up WAY down in the Don’t Dos.”
I remember very well hearing most of my life about the evils of drinking, smoking , cussing, dancing. movies etc. I knew well that if I died with alcohol in my system, or smoke in my lungs, or a swear word on my lips, or a heart attack brought on by dancing , it was a one way ticket to HELL Do not pass go and no get out of jail free card! That was it and there was no debate. So….i grew up hearing Don’t smoke and I didn’t (except for rabbit tobacco; you can look that one up), Don’t drink..so I didn’t ….don’t cuss, so I didn’t (except for the occasional shucks, and darns. Don’t dance (unless it’s in the spirit at church) so I didn’t.
Then they added on “professional sports, stock car racing, pool, mixed bathing, card games, movie theaters, fairs, no shorts, no pants for the girls and no skirts for the boys, no bowling, no nothing! Way down deep in the Don’t dos.
I grew up being guided by a set of values (maybe just someone’s idea) that were very strict. On occasion some of us “jumped the curb” (that’s another blog) and tasted of the “don’t dos” to see just what might happen. We mostly survived unless our parents caught us (they normally did, I don’t lie well) and some even went on to believe those things might have been “spiritual repression” instead of being a good thing for us.
In the last 10 years, I have attended many funerals of the people who taught me those things. I remember those people who, while they might have been overly zealous in their teaching, cared so much about me and wanted the best for me. They truly wanted a life free of condemnation for me. They walked through so much of that and came out on the other side. My dad was an alcoholic before he became a Christian. I know the smell of “drunk puke”. There is nothing worse than that smell. I washed it off many times trying to help my mother get him into bed. He would throw up all over us and the bed. I hated that smell.
My dad became a very successful pastor and mentor. He only laid down the “Don’t dos” for my benefit. Many times he would say. “Son, you can try what ever you want , but nothing will ever satisfy you like the love of Christ”. He was so right. Christ has sustained me when men have discarded me.
I haven’t always stayed true to those “Don’t dos”. One of my best friends, Dr. Tommy Griffin and I snuck off and went to see Elvis (Jailhouse Rock) at the movies. We LOVED IT! He got under conviction and while we were preaching a revival, he ratted us out and went to the altar to repent….looked at me and said, “you need to repent too”. I had just finished the sermon.
So, Just so you will know. I grew up ‘Way down in the Don’t dos.” Some of it was silly no doubt. But the men and women who walked Christianity before me, sincerely cared for my soul. I am grateful for their example. We might need to bring some of that back. It might be a good thing.