The eleventh Commandment is “Thou shalt not act up in the house of the Lord.” My mother took this commandment most seriously. We were not allowed to wiggle, talk, snicker or commit any action that might distract others. I have always had allergies and a deviated septum. Consequently, I often made a wheezing sound when I breathed through my nose. Mom would punch me and whisper, “stop breathing.” How does a five year old stop breathing? I tried holding my breath but I lacked the will power to make it through a Pentecostal sermon. I tried breathing through my mouth but soon became dehydrated and miserable.
Our church had individual, auditorium style seats. They were designed to torture young children. If a preschooler sat up straight the laws of physics took over and like a miniature seesaw the chair would swing up to wrap itself around the child like a sardine sandwich. In order to sit you had to balance yourself on the fulcrum which was torture and led to the unpardonable sin, letting your feet touch the chair in front of you.
After church I once asked Mom why I couldn’t rest my feet on the chair in front of me and she instructed my calloused soul, “Son, if you touch that chair everyone in the row will feel it. You don’t know who might be sitting there. It might be a sinner under conviction and if you disturb them they might not get saved because of your interruption. You wouldn’t want that on your conscience would you?”
I’m not certain I fully understood what she was talking about but I figured it had something to do with touching chairs caused people to go to hell. That’s a heavy burden for a wheezing, aching four year old.
My great temptation was whispering to Shirley. That was forbidden. It got me several trips to the ladies room where I was instructed in the ways of righteousness. One night Mom leaned over as we whispered and shared, “If I catch you two talking again I’m going to spank you when we get home.” A few minutes later she leaned over and delivered the verdict, “That’s it. When we get home, you’re both going to get it.”
We were perfect angels the rest of the evening. Even on the ride home. Once there we quietly dressed for bed and slid under the covers in respective rooms, hoping she had forgotten her promise. I lay there waiting for Mom to go to bed ensuring my full reprieve. Finally, the lights were out and all was quiet. But the silence was quickly broken, “Shirley, Jackie, didn’t I forget something?”
“No Mam, we don’t think so.”
“Yes, I did. I promised you two something. Get up and get the belt.”
We did and she did.
To disrespect those things and places dedicated to the service of God is to disrespect God. I am thankful I was taught this at an early age.
April 13, 2010