I am the last of five children; twenty years younger than the eldest and ten years after my parents were “done”; four kids a family makes. When Christmas presents came, I might have well been an only child. Although I remember Christmas when I was three or four, it’s the Christmases of my elementary years that really stand out.
Some of my best Christmas memories are about my favorite big brother and me. He had a knack for mischief, and one of those times involved my mom’s present. He was 20 or so, home on leave from the Navy. I was seven, and his biggest fan in the world. My mom loved Almond Roca, and the scant giftwrap did nothing to hide the fact that the tasty confections rested inside.
“Let’s eat them,” my brother goaded. I was speechless, the carrier of an impeccable conscience that in my seven year old mind had never done wrong. “C’mon,” he said in a sinister tone, “She’ll never notice if a few are missing.”
I only remember bits of what happened next. I remember being on the floor on my back, him straddling me, opening my mom’s Roca. We were both laughing; him holding unwrapped pieces in front of my nose and over my lips. I loved my mom. She loved Almond Roca. She really loved her Christmas Almond Roca… from Dad, with love. But the crushing weight of temptation, not to mention the weight of my brother’s butt on my stomach, was way too much for my will to fight.
At least one went down; maybe two or three. It tasted so good! There we laughed, next to the stockings, presents and tree… a swirling mess of colored lights, tinsel, Santa and guilt. Guilt! There you are. I felt it. An unrelenting pressure of knowing that I’d made the worst possible choice. I stole, and now the temptation came to lie in order to cover up my wretchedness.
“We’ll just put the wrap back on & she’ll never know,” smirked my big brother. How could she not know we ate half her candy? How could I look her in the eye… the evil son that exchanged his birthright for some chocolate, scrumptious toffee and wonderful crushed almonds?
This was my first life experience with what Paul writes in Romans 7:19. “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”
Several significant things happened around that same time in my life. Within the next year or two, I recognized that I had bigotry in my heart. Other family members had undoubtedly influenced me in ways that I knew weren’t right. My mom prayed with me for Jesus to allow me to love people the way he does. It took.
The other thing that happened was that I asked Jesus into my heart. Sitting on the piano bench with my mom, we stopped from whatever we were singing. I asked my mom what it meant to have Jesus in your heart. She explained that he wants to have a relationship with me, that he would forgive me of my sin (and guilt), and then she asked me if I wanted to ask him into my heart.
I did, and He did.
Back to the forbidden Roca – my mom did find out. The guilt was short lived. I blamed my big brother for everything and he got the evil eye and a tongue-lashing. I told her how sorry I was, and she forgave me. Grace! There you are. There’s nothing that feels as good as the salve of knowing that you’re forgiven.
Romans 3:23-24 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,”
Thank you Jesus for coming! Happy Birthday. Now pass the Roca.
Oh, and Rick, if you’re reading this, you’re still my favorite.