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Alex the Example

August 5, 2008

Alex was oozing cuteness. Somewhere around 3 years old, Alex quietly explored the entire swimming area of the hotel, systematically lifting up everything, climbing over everything, even tasting everything. His mother followed him incessantly, trying as she could to keep him, or others, safe. Finally, she settled for just herding him in the general direction of safety and oversight. I tried to read my book from the lounge chair, but honestly, Alex was much more interesting. He reminded me of the familiar comic strip from my childhood – Family Circus. Occasionally, the comic strip would feature one of the many children going somewhere or coming from somewhere, winding their way in a tortuous route instead of a straight line. Alex was a living embodiment of the Family Circus children.

I should have guessed he also resembled another of my comic companions from childhood: Dennis the Menace.

His mom finally settled in her own poolside lounge chair as Alex had formed a predictable pattern. He would go through the following circuit: Eat an animal cracker, go to Mom and ask her an inane question, throw something small, run over to the fence and inexplicably bounce off it, return to the animal crackers bouncing the entire way. Three-year old Alex was finally following some kind of pattern and mom began reading her novel. That is when Alex noticed that she was taking him for granted. At that point, he began to channel Dennis the Menace. He must have noticed that no one was in the hot tub for the first time that morning. Earlier, I had heard his mother warn him to go nowhere near the hot tub, but somehow he forgot. He wandered purposefully toward the warm water, even as I watched with fascination. Just feet away from his goal, the amazing mother’s intuitive radar kicked in and she forcefully warned: “I told you not to go near the water Alex.” I’m pretty sure she didn’t even look up from her book as she said it.

This tone of voice had worked all morning. But this was where Alex decided to take his stand. He didn’t move away from the water but stopped just two feet from its edge. If this had been earlier in the morning, I am sure that his mom would have rushed over and whisked him back to her side. But she was now too comfortable to get up. So she let her voice take over for her superior size.

“Alex, do you remember your verse?”

“Yes mom.” Alex didn’t move a muscle. He just inched closer to the water.

“Can you say it with me?”

“Okay.” Still inching closer.

“Children….”

Alex responded, “Children….”

“Obey…” mom prompted.

Alex paused, looking at the water. “I want to stay here.”

“Obey…” mom tried again.

“I’m staying here.”

“Say it with me Alex. It’s your verse. Children….”

Alex said it, “Children…”

“Obey…”

“I want to stay here.”

“Children…” mom attempted a third time.

“Children…” Alex parroted.

“Obey…”

Alex was right over the water’s edge now. “I like the hot water.”

Finally mom got up and retrieved Alex and brought him over by her. The bible memory verse never got finished. I imagined that Alex had got the verse word perfect over breakfast. I can just hear Mom and Dad squealing with delight as he said it perfectly. But saying it in a theoretical breakfast setting is much different than saying it when it meant something.

That is the problem with learning truth. We often separate truth into two columns: The column of theory and the column of practicality. We often embrace all truths when they line up as noble theory. Similarly, we tend to ignore truths when they obnoxiously venture over and interrupt the column of practical daily life. That is when they stop being a source of joy and become a babysitter we try to ignore at first and deny at last.

Alex is every man. Alex is the example of the flesh sitting by the pool, denying the very truth he was pleased to embrace hours earlier.

Of course, Alex is just a child. We know better than Alex.

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