“If it’s not yours, don’t touch it!” Words I swore I’d never say.
Funny how we have those thoughts as teenagers and on into young adult life, as the babies begin to arrive. It’s easy to think, “I’ll never say the things MY parents said…” but when it happens for the first time, you realize you are absolutely, totally and completely DOOMED. There’s no changing it, no praying it away, and no amount of parenting books or classes will change your DNA.
I’m laughing as I type this, thinking of all the other things I said that I would NEVER say or do, in an attempt to break the mold and not be “just like my Dad”.
It’s comical now, but last night, as Ben Thomas bit the eyepiece off the nice set of binoculars, and two weeks ago when he tore up the face of the entertainment stand, and a few nights ago when he dumped out the entire bottle of baby wash into the bath tub to “make bubbles”, I yelled it like second nature…”BEN THOMAS! If it’s not yours, don’t touch it!”
Well, I lost that battle. And so many others. In countless things that I say and do and even the WAY that I say things, I am like Glenn Cecil Austin. And the older I get, the more “okay” with that I become. I love you, Pop.
Now, skip a generation from Papaw and let’s talk about a lesson I learned recently from Ben Thomas. Last Sunday morning, BT was warned not to mess with his Momma’s flat-iron in the bathroom. Two minutes later, he was screaming, crying, and having an absolute fit.
Why? He touched the flat-iron.
His index finger is still very blistered and we’ve been coating it with lavender oil and keeping it wrapped in a couple of bandaids. It took hours to get the kid calmed down and to convince him to take his hand out of the cup of cold water. In my feeble attempt to stop the tears and get some sanity back in the house, I was finally able to get a bandaid on his finger by telling him, “This is a magic bandaid. It will make it all better!”
He’s worn the bandaid every day since. We’ve swapped it out for new ones, twice a day, of course. But he hasn’t been more than a couple of minutes without a bandaid on that finger. Which is probably smart for a wild-eyed three-year-old.
Everything was fine until last night. He took a shower with his Momma and when he came back to the kitchen, where I was cleaning up from supper, he proclaimed, “Dada, I need a bandaid!” No biggie, right? He’s learned that this magic bandaid will make it all better, so I walked over to the shelf and grabbed a couple of bandages and prepared to be Doctor Dad.
Here’s where things went South quickly. He had a case of the old man finger. You know what I’m talking about? When you’re in the pool all afternoon, or you take a really long bath after a really long day and when you finally get out, your hands are all wrinkled and it looks like you’ve lost the pigment in your palms?
Old man finger. He had it and there was no denying it.
So, I decided that his skin needed to dry out a bit before we tried to put a bandaid on it, since nothing would stay on that soggy finger at this point. When I told him that he’d have to wait a while before we could put another bandage on, you would have thought I had just run over his dog, on purpose, in front of him, and then put the car in reverse and…well…you get the picture. It wasn’t good.
He screamed, stomped, cried, and wouldn’t stop. “I need a bandaid! I need a bandaid! I need a bandaid RIGHT NOW!” This lasted for an eternal fifteen minutes because this child is now convinced that the only thing that is going to heal his finger is a “magic bandaid”.
Doesn’t that sound like us? I know it has sounded like me before. And the connection between these two lessons struck me right between the eyes: If it’s not yours, don’t touch it, because a bandaid will not make it all better.
It seems so easy at times, just to slap a bandaid on an issue and try to move forward, but eventually, you’re going to get old man finger, that bandage is going to rot, you’re going to get dirt under it, it’s going to fester, and you’re going to be in a much worse situation that you could have possibly imagined.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably had a case of that old wrinkly skin on your heart before (maybe you do now), but the good news is that healing comes through things like Jesus, hard work, honesty, and simply saying, “Help me.”
Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
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