When I was a young child, I always looked forward to my 2 older sisters coming to visit (one at a time). Invariably however; both of them would arrive simultaneously after church each week. Renewed in spirit and brimming over with pent up exuberance brought on by the pastor’s passionate sermon; they would sit on either side of me on the sofa, and begin extolling the virtues of their newfound wisdom upon my youthful ears.
Their conversations always started out with a beautiful rendition of the glories of God, and the joys of heaven. They would sing in harmony the praises of the Almighty, and preach the rewards of a good life. The good news though, never lasted.
Invariably, they always got around to the terrible punishment God would deliver unto the unrepentant sinner. As if rehearsed for days to be played out on stage for a crowd of thousands upon thousands; the warnings would begin in soft spoken tone. In concert, one would issue the punishment of sin. The last word spoken, the other would take cue and offer a “praise the Lord, amen”. With each new warning the volume was turned up. As the crescendo built, and the terrible images of the fire and brimstone of Hell pierced my impressionable young mind, I would push my knees tightly together to keep from shaking.
As if in competition they would take turns delivering the consequences of doing evil, with each new judgment, worse than the last. By now, my skin flushed with fear and my eyes as big as saucers, I would look up toward the ceiling; certain that God was about to strike me with lightening and leave me nothing but a pile of burnt up ashes, smoldering between the two saintly holy rollers.
Once sure my mind had been fully cleansed, and the demons removed, they would peck me on the cheek, smile, and say “see you next week honey”. As they left, I would sheepishly follow them outside; glancing upward toward the heavens to make sure no huge godly hand was waiting to splatter me like a fly. After they were safely down the driveway and my heartbeat had slowed to a fast trot I would consider turning on the TV to watch cartoons. After careful deliberation, the risk seeming far too great, I would reverently pick up the Bible instead.
That was many years ago. I grew up and moved away. My sister’s work complete, my fate was now in my own hands. That however; is not the end of the story. We all got married and had kids, and now grandchildren. To think my sisters would stop at me, would not be giving them due credit. My sisters are not quitters. I’m pretty sure that back where they live, a familiar scene will be played out this Sabbath. One of my young relatives will be setting on the sofa, knees knocking, soul trembling; waiting for the bolt… and that might not be a bad thing.