We were standing at the airport awaiting the arrival of our bags when I nearly snapped. Not really -- I'm not sure I'm "snappable", but allow me the hyperbole anyway. For those non-Detroit people who read this, I need to explain Smith Terminal. The main terminal at Detroit is McNamara. It is new, modern, beautiful, very well designed, and about the nicest large airport anywhere (the nicest small one has to be in Fort Smith, Arkansas). The other terminal -- soon to be replaced -- is Smith Terminal. Think "Bosnia-Lite" with "eau de Kosovo" oozing up from the carpet competing with the aura of despair and meaninglessness coming from the baggage claim area and various TSA personnel.
A woman was beside me, turning around constantly and yelling at her kids. To be fair -- the kids needed yelling at. They were out of control and causing quite a scene. The woman would yell, threaten, plead and then start again, almost without taking a breath. Knowing that I might offend some, it must be said: this woman was demanding her children be disciplined when everything about her indicated she was not disciplined herself. Her clothes, hygiene, voice, language (and on and on) were all indicative of a person who had never made a hard choice, chosen a discipline and stuck to it, or lived a life of self control. The pile of duty free liquor boxes at her feet were just a plus, a metaphysical underlining of my initial take on the situation.
So... why didn't her kids listen? Because the signal was mixed. The kids were seeing one signal lived out in front of them and hearing another signal. That second signal had no chance of success for the kids had never seen an example of it lived out in front of them.
On the cruise ship some very young girls wore super tight T-shirts advertising their sexual availability with slogans or by their snugness. Others wore far too little cloth covering only the legal necessities as their "swim suit." We're talking 9-14 year olds, here. Moms and dads had to buy that clothing, had to pack it, and had to allow them to wear them in public. These would be the same moms and dads that sat in the restaurant and complained about how unruly and disrepectful their kids were. Hmmmmmm.....
Other parents embarassed themselves and their children by the heaping plates of food they hauled back to their table at every opportunity. When the chocolate buffet came out on Thursday it went from farce to tragedy. By that I mean that I used to think the most dangerous place on the planet was between a TV camera and Jesse Jackon or Harry Reid. Nope. The most dangerous place was between some of the parents and that chocolate. Walking through a little later you saw heaps of food left on plates, wasted, good only to be thrown away by the third world workers whose hearts had to ache with memories of poverty back home. Where were the parents? They were out by the pool yelling at their kids to behave. Their efforts failed. Wonder why?
Children have to SEE disciplined lives lived out in front of them. My kids helped us write the checks when we paid our bills. They saw how much we gave the church. I arranged my study time to take place while the kids were up so that they could see that daddy really did read and pray every day. I took them with me when we did good works, made visits, mowed the lawn of a neighbor who was in the hospital, etc. I need to stress this: this was not natural for me. It was hard to remember that my little ones needed to see Christianity lived out. I am as selfish and narrow minded as any of you... but I know that Jesus wants something better from me. He lived it out, too. There was no mixed signal from Jesus. He lived out the fruits of the Spirit every day, in good times and in bad, and stayed faithful to who He was even while on the cross; offering forgiveness, taking care of his mother, and talking to His Father.
The lady at the terminal doesn't have a pleasant life. In pursuit of her own joys, pleasures, and peace, she has ended up in a place that guarantees she won't get any of them. My heart breaks for her and for her children. She did me a favor, though. She reminded me how important it is that my life gives off the right signals. People notice. Twice on this cruise, couples came up to us and asked us about our faith. They had noticed something different. We are in contact with two of the couples and hope to help them find their way to Jesus. Kami and I don't always send the right signals, but we want to!
Lord, let our lives match what we say we believe.