Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

A heart-jerk reaction

ON FATHER’S DAY, one of my sons recalled a childhood story that—in his memory—cast me in a better light than I really deserve. But I’ll take it.

We were up in Colorado ski country, inner-tubing down a defunct ski slope. I lay face down on the tube, and had one of the kids climb on top of me and hold on tight. Then off we went. Our combined weight, together with the steep descent, meant we got up quite a head of steam.

The run-off at the bottom was next to some playing fields where, improbably, a rugby tournament was going on despite the heavy snow covering the ground.

Pushing off with one of my sons on board for the latest of many runs, I failed to check the path ahead—only to discover too late that several rugby players were warming up below, just where we were headed.

They didn’t hear my warning cries.

We took out two or three of them from behind at the ankles, like tenpins, all of us ending up in a tangle of limbs and snow. Our victims were, needless to say, somewhat surprised, and they started to let us know this in no uncertain terms. Let’s just say their salty language could have cleared the whole slope.

Though there was a bunch of them, all extremely large and rather put out, I found myself jumping up, stepping toward them and barking, “You will not use language like that in front of my son!”

I’m not sure who was more surprised about this, them or me, but they all sheepishly apologized as they dusted themselves off. Then I said “sorry” for mowing them down.

Ever since, my son has remembered it as an example of his dad’s noble character and bravery. Heart-warming, but my explanation is that it was a simple gut reaction: what mattered most to me at that moment—shielding my young son from unfiltered anger—came out.

I guess it was an example of what Jesus called a heart-jerk (rather than knee-jerk) reaction when He observed that “out of the abundance of the heart (a person) speaks” (Luke 6:45).

Had I taken the time to weigh my puny self against those guys, of course, I’d likely have kept quiet.

I wonder if Peter had a similar sense of surprise at himself when he and John were arrested and hauled before the Sanhedrin after healing the lame beggar at the temple in Jerusalem. After a night in jail, the two were dragged in front of the Jewish rulers—among them Annas, the high priest, and Caiaphas.

The last time he had been in their orbit, Peter had folded—as Jesus was being quizzed at Caiaphas’ place the night He was arrested, the big-mouthed disciple denied three times that he knew the One who was on trial.

This time, though, he didn’t hold back, preaching Jesus as Healer and Savior. The difference? On this occasion, he was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:8). What was deep within him came out, just as Jesus had promised:

“When you are brought before the synagogues, rulers, and authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say. For at that time the Holy Spirit will teach you what you should say” (Luke 12:11-12).

Photo credit: CipherN via Foter.com/CC BY-NC

2 Responses to “A heart-jerk reaction”

  1. johndarnall

    Me too Andy. The hard work is keeping my heart filled every day.
    Nice piece. Thanks.
    – John


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