Crossing the Boundary

“You’ll never go,” she declared within a spontaneous laugh. That laugh wasn’t because I had struck a chord of humor. Nor did it mean my mother would do all in her power to keep me from going to college. No, it reflected the absurdity of my dream. In my mother’s mind college was an absolute impossibility, for it cost every bit of money she could salvage amidst my father’s sea of alcoholism to keep the family afloat.

As her oldest child of six, my mother was counting on me for additional family income after I graduated from high school. She set the boundary when she fenced me into the commercial curriculum.

“Mama, I want to take the academic course.” I knew I needed the math, foreign language, and science classes if I had any hope of being admitted to a college. Without them how could I do well on the required ACT or SAT? My high school, allowing no overlapping, drew indelible lines for each curriculum (academic, commercial, general). I would be stuck for three years on the track I started in the tenth grade.

“Judy, you can’t get a job with that academic stuff. It’s foolishness. A waste of time. You’ve got to get a job, and you’re going to take the commercial course.”

When my hushed voice revealed I wanted to go to college, Mama’s laugh trashed my dream to the ridiculous and defined my boundary. Thus business arithmetic, typing, shorthand, and bookkeeping boxed my borders.

A few days short of my eighteenth birthday, I was assigned an office desk with a manual typewriter at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland. As I handed my mother money for room and board each payday, her burden was a little lighter.

Every day I worked the clerk-stenographer job I starved intellectually and emotionally, all the while building up my strength to cross my mother’s boundary. Fifteen months later I matriculated at Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tennessee.

While sitting in general psychology class that fall, I learned my professor had crossed an imposed boundary too. His feat, however, was one that I, having belonged to the National Honor Society, could not imagine.

“I was tested as borderline mental retardation,” Dr. Cook told the class. “But that did not keep me from getting a doctorate. And that is why I’m always advising this college not to require ACT or SAT scores for admission. A student’s potential should not be bound to those tests.”

If anyone could say since David of old “With You I can attack a barrier, and with my God I can leap over a wall” (Psalm 18:29 HCSB), it was Dr. Cook. Refusing to let a statistical standard hedge him in, he established his own boundary. Then, using his life experience, he fought for those who might be barricaded from achieving their potential. I was one of them, getting in just under the wire, though. The ACT was a freshman admission requirement when I received my B.A. four years later.

I also got into Carson-Newman because, adhering to my mother’s career confines, I saved enough to pay the first-year expenses and earned the credibility to be rehired during college summers. With God I moved a boundary.

The Mole

This is not what I signed up for! Sure, I liked what he had to say in the beginning. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have joined the rest in this startup company. The leader’s revolutionary ideas smacked of a new world order, but I’m a man who wants to see results. Everybody knows you have to follow through. Put your money where your mouth is, as the saying goes. If I’d been invited to the private meetings he had with those three stinking fishermen, I would have come up with a surefire scheme.

He does know how to draw a crowd, I’ll give him that. But it’s been three years. Where are the changes?

Those other guys seem to think he is the be-all and end-all. Sometimes they act like they want to fall down and worship him. Not me. I’m smart enough to know he’s a teacher–a mentor–nothing more. I’m not putting him on a pedestal.

It’s time for me to move on. My days are numbered, anyway. I figured that out on Monday at Martha’s house when her silly sister wasted the ointment on the teacher’s feet. I still want to vomit when I think it was equivalent to a  working man’s salary for an entire year.

How I wish I hadn’t had that knee-jerk reaction and blurted out the money would have been better spent on the poor! Matthew looked at me as if he wasn’t fooled. Does he suspect I’ve been pilfering from our cash box? He’s too good with numbers not to have put two and two together. So what’s wrong if I do dip into the kitty now and then? I’m just as poor as the next beggar. It’s all relative, isn’t it? Furthermore, I was made the treasurer. Doesn’t that give me the right of full discretion? But if Matthew says something . . . oh, I don’t want to deal with it.

I’m going to have a real life. Go where I can be appreciated. But I’m not leaving without getting traveling coins. That’ll be easy. I know where to find the pompous stuffed shirts who will be more than happy to give them to me. It won’t cost me anything except a little time. Then I’m out of here!

Thus was spawned the pact that history never buried.

Judas didn’t mean for his decision to take the turn it did. He thought the conspirators just wanted to rough up the teacher. Send him and his followers a message. Make their point and move forward.

He learned the truth twelve hours after ID’ing Jesus in the garden’s hideaway spot. Those double-crossers want him dead!

Hearing the death sentence, Judas’ head reeled. His simple plan for moving on had spun out of control. Ah! With a sudden stab to his heart, he realized he was carrying blood money. Jesus had never done him any harm.  Yes, he had been disappointed in the man, but Jesus didn’t deserve death. This was more than he could endure. Then from his roiling emotional cauldron there bubbled up a way to clear his conscience:  Return the tainted coins.

His heart racing faster than his legs, Judas found the cohorts in conclave. Between gasps for breath, he confessed, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4 ESV).

What was that to them? Smirking, they told him it was his problem, not theirs. They got what they wanted. And no, they would not take back the coins. It meant blood money to them too, and the laws of their religion would not let them keep it. Judas, frustrated beyond comprehension, flung the thirty pieces of silver on the floor and ran out of the Temple. Unable, however, to throw away the guilt of his crime, Judas hanged himself.

“Thirty pieces of silver”
Burns on the traitor’s brain;
“Thirty pieces of silver!
Oh! it is hellish gain!”
(William Blane)

Like Lot in the previous blog (“Real Estate Disaster”), Judas didn’t mean for his life to end up as it did. And like Lot he didn’t mean for it not to.

Real Estate Disaster

“Choose whatever parcel of my land you want, and it’s yours for the taking.”

What a dope! the nephew thought. I know my business associates and his are not getting along, but what a lousy business decision! The old man’s so filthy rich he’s lost his touch for making money. Only someone senile would give me the first option. I can’t believe he’s willing to pay this much for peace! Well, why should I give him a break? If the old man wants to settle disputes by decreasing his bottom line , who am I to stand in the way? Besides, I’ve been taught to respect my elders.

“Thanks, Uncle. I’ll take the eastern spread.”

The nephew figured he could make a bundle with the choice property. Its location was perfect. Yep, he was really going to get ahead now. One day he would be richer than his foolish uncle. The upstart knew a good deal when he saw it, and he was going to milk it for all it was worth.

Never mind that S-town was down that way. So what if  it had a wicked reputation and his uncle didn’t approve of that lifestyle? He would use S-town’s resources to serve his financial purposes and laugh all the way to the bank. Besides, nobody said he had to move there. Living in its outskirts would suit his plans quite well.

But time, the entrepreneur soon learned, is money. He was sure he would turn a higher and quicker profit if he lived within the city limits. That’s where most of the competition resided, and he had to keep his eyes and ears on them. His decision to move merely meant he was doing what was best for business.

Always on the alert for a business transaction, Lot was sitting at the city’s gate the evening that the two strangers approached. Quickly sizing them up, he realized these self-confident men knew their stuff. They had a certain aura about them. Figuring they could mean a lucrative deal, he insisted they spend the night at his house. After setting before them an impressive meal, Lot’s life spiraled downward.

The males of the city, young and old, surrounded his house, demanding he produce his visitors so that they could subject them to gang rape. Instead, Lot negotiated by offering his two virgin daughters carte blanche. When the townsmen rejected the trade, the strangers settled the matter. Using their supernatural powers, they struck the men with blindness.

At dawn these men on God’s mission forcibly took a reluctant Lot, his wife, and their daughters outside the city, warning them to run for their lives and not to look back. Something dreadful was about to happen, and it couldn’t until they were gone. With sulfur and fire God then destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Lot’s wife, looking behind her at the destruction, became a pillar of salt. Why did she look back?

Was it simply female curiosity? Her daughters kept their eyes forward.

Was she longing for what she had left behind? For what she could no longer have? A nice house? Those friends? The party she was planning for the king?

She looked back because she was disobedient. Like Eve in the Garden of Eden, she did not believe God. She did not take him at His word. Lot’s wife did not think God really meant what His messengers said.

Lot didn’t mean for him and his daughters to live in a cave. He didn’t mean for his life to end up in a horrible mess. Every decision he made had been to ensure “the good life” as all along the way he asked himself “Will it make a profit?” instead of “Is it right?” Had it not been for Uncle Abraham’s intercession when things were coming to a head, Lot, too, would have burned to death in Sodom.

You may read this true story with all of its details in chapters 13, 14, 18, and 19 of Genesis in the Holy Bible.