When I was about 7 years old, I was too young to play official little league baseball, but I nevertheless, enjoyed watching my older brother play at third base for his little league team. Watching him play helped implant my interest in baseball. Sometimes I must admit, however, I would get a little bored and wander off to discover the wooded areas around the ball park. One game stands out as a formative moment in my religious education!
As I wandered off, I spied the area for interesting odds and ends that would stimulate a typical 7 year old. Now it happened that I loved the sound of an exploding coke bottle. The kind of shapely bottle that when struck would make a fantastic pop that would bring music to my 7 year old ears. And lo and behold I saw one: an empty Coca Cola bottle just lying there on the ground. What made this scene so amazing to my 7 year old mind was the fact that right next to the bottle was a perfectly formed stump of a tree that had a jutting jagged edge that conceivably could make a great platform to break the bottle! I couldn't wait to hear the pop of the bottle breaking.
I looked around and specifically at my father who was all the way on the other side of the field watching my brother at third base. I was in the woods on the first base side of the field. I spied my father very carefully and was convinced that he was paying attention only to my brother. So, I picked up the bottle and slammed it against the tree stump hoping to hit the jagged edge and hear the pop! There was just a thud, no pop. So I made a second attempt, but not without spying out my father. Sure enough, I was in the clear, he was not watching me, he was watching my brother at third base. Again the bottle made the sound of a thud and not a pop because it did not break. On my third attempt, I was determined to use all my strength since on the other attempts I was unsuccessful. So, I made sure that my father was not watching me - he was still preoccupied with my brother at third base. I picked up the bottle and raised it higher than before and literally threw it down onto the jagged edge of the stump. I immediately derived much pleasure because on my third attempt the bottle broke and gave off a tremendous popping explosion! I was momentarily in heaven until I realized that I was not the only person to hear that beautiful noise.
The entire ball game paused, turned and stared at me. "Oh My" I thought if everyone heard that beautiful sound then my father must have heard it too!! I turned away from the field, I looked around, I looked up at the sky as if I had nothing to do with the breaking of the bottle. Moreover, I glanced in the direction of my father: He was oblivious to me and only looking at my brother!! I was safe, in the clear and had nothing to worry about I thought.
The game ended and I made my way to our car. My brother's team won and my father was going to take us for some victory sodas! I even congratulated my brother on his win. I probably should not have said anything because my father started to wax philosophic out loud. "I wonder what happens to little boys who break Coke bottles in woods during a baseball game?!" My brother piped in saying "yeah! what does happen to little boys?!" hoping that I would get punished. My ears started to burn and my face became beet red then blanched - I was cornered with nowhere to go and nowhere to hide!
Ironically, my father did not punish me. He had the power to crush me, but he did not. He decided on a merciful path. He saw how devastated I became. He understood that I learned a very deep lesson that day.
I learned that a real true parent never takes his eye off his child even when the child is sure that the parent is not looking. I learned that my parent has deep concern for me and yet there is an element of independence that he allows me. My father deliberately did not interrupt my experiment. He could have interfered yet elected not to because the lesson of conscience and doing the right thing would not have been integrated sufficiently had he just yelled or interfered.
I figured soon after this episode in my life that if my father was so concerned with me and kept his eyes on me, then all the more so I assumed that my Father in Heaven who is concerned with all his children keeps his eye on all of us, even when we are sure that He is not watching. The lesson of conscience and choosing the right path will be integrated better than through His direct intervention.