The Lord has blessed me with some sons I’m very proud of, and I can tell you some stories from their growing up years that still brings joy to a father’s heart. This is not one of those.
It was a line-up. No, the police were not involved, but I would used a lie detector machine if I’d had access to one.
All four sons had been summoned and were standing “front and center” at attention in what was then a bathroom. I was conducting the investigation and hoping for a confession. I don’t remember if I’d already grilled them one at a time to see if one would crack, but we were past that point by this time.
Exhibit A in my case was a long narrow bare strip on the wall that had once been covered with wallpaper. I hate working with wallpaper, and I hope never again to hang any, but I had painstakingly papered the walls in that bathroom.
Some miscreant—yea, verily, one of my own offspring, I was sure, contemplating life while perched on the porcelain, had found a loose corner of wallpaper and pulled the rip cord, leaving an inch-wide bare streak marring my once-pretty-nearly-perfect wall.
I made a speech to the suspects, threatened, cajoled, considered mild torture, and tried every parenting trick I knew. I even contemplated spanking each one of them, using the punish “them all, God will know his own” approach adopted by crusaders in the 1209 massacre at Béziers, France. After all, I was not even then so naive as to adopt the modern “progressive” and witless notion that humans left to themselves just get better and better. No, humans are inherently sinful and in need of redemption. And I was pretty sure that each of the guys in that line-up already had committed enough unpunished crimes that punishing them all for this one would hardly be as unjust as it would seem. But I’m soft. I didn’t do it.
I never got a confession, and I must admit, I still don’t know the truth; even the guilty party has probably long since forgotten his guilt. The crime is unsolved, and I long ago made peace with the fact that it will remain unsolved.
We do well to approach life with some perspective. We can live with some small unsolved “who-done-its.” Some minor mysteries don’t matter all that much. Some riddles aren’t worth spending much effort to answer. About 90% of the “religious issues” folks have fussed about are a waste of breath and, if the disunity involved wasn’t such a slap in the face of God and a matter for tears, would be more deserving of a belly laugh than an inquisition.
It seems to me that even a few real answers to real questions trump a boatload of lesser questions. And they all boil down to these: Does God exist? Is God completely good? Is God completely loving? I believe we have good reason to answer Yes to all three. With that verdict, those truths, those answers, and faith in the One in whom is focused all the Father’s goodness and love, I’m at peace.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at