If I were to ask a child if there is a favorite rule that he or she likes to obey, chances are that the response would be a facial expression that says, “Are you serious?” As ridiculous as my question may be, I can confidently recall the time when I had a favorite commandment. My favorite commandment was “honor your father and mother.” (Exodus 20:12.) And as far as I can remember, I tried to keep that commandment with all my strength. The reason for my ambition, I must admit, was not because I loved my parents. Even though I did love them, the real reason I tried to keep that commandment was because I heard that if I kept it, I would live a long life. This appeal had a strong impact on my heart, so beginning around the age of five, my attitude toward my parents was ruled by this commandment. More specifically, however, was the way I treated my mother. I would always make sure that she was happy; I would ask how she was doing or if anything was troubling her. We held close communication and shared many secrets. And when she asked or ordered me to do something, I made sure that it was done. Yes, I considered it my duty to make her happy; I considered it a blessing to obey the fifth commandment.
As the years went by and I grew older, my attitude towards the fifth commandment began to change. When I was eleven, my mother, siblings, and I moved to New York City. It was here that I began to see myself as an individual of society. Prior to this, most of my time away from school was spent with family. Not anymore! The city was big and attractive, so I began to explore. In addition, my restraining stepfather was no longer a part of my life. Since he was no longer there to dictate my coming and going, I felt free to roam. In all of this, however, I continually made an effort to honor my mother. When she called, I answered. When she ordered, I obeyed. But though I answered and obeyed, my heart began to dread restrictions. And because I wanted to be like others, I slowly began to disregard the fifth commandment.
One day, an incident occurred which, to this day, is one of the most memorable events of my youth. Instead of going home after school as my mother ordered, I decided to hang out in the school yard with some of the other students. We were playing basketball when all of a sudden another student approached me. I was surprised at this because he was one of the popular students of the school. He was around my age, but he had a reputation of being a hard little boy, one who was accustomed to the streets. When he approached me, I was not prepared for what he had to say. In a demanding tone, he asked me to help him steal a puppy. Yes, to steal! I immediately became uneasy, but because I wanted to be accepted, I tried so hard to hide my fears, and I began to make excuses. “It’s getting late.” “Oh, my mother is waiting for me.” “I need to catch the next bus home.” I gave so many appeals hoping to set myself free, but he was not persuaded. Instead, he began to persuade me with violent threats. He threatened to get his older brother to hurt me if I did not comply. Since I knew a little about his brother’s reputation, I concluded that he was not to be offended. Therefore, I submitted to the little boy’s demand and followed him to where the puppy was.
He took me to an alley located around three blocks away from the school. There the puppy was, locked in a fence which faced a position that made it impossible for us to open the gate. Once he realized this, my comrade suddenly changed his plans. No longer was I to help him steal the puppy; I was told to steal it myself while he just watched out. So there I was struggling with this extremely secured fence. I pulled, I pushed, I twisted, and I turned. I could not get it opened. In the process, a noise was made that caused me and my comrade to run and hide. When we arrived at our hiding spot, he suddenly became very violent. He cursed me. He grabbed me. He held me up against the wall. I shook. I trembled. I began to cry. In his anger he made more violent threats, and out of fear I promised to try harder. So when the scene was clear, we went back to get the puppy. Once again I pulled, I pushed, I twisted, and I turned. This time the fence gave way, and I was able to grab the poor little creature. Immediately, I brought the puppy to my anxious little comrade. Now that he had his object, he became cheerful and happy. And after giving me a brief, halfhearted apology, he departed with a smile on his face. As for me, I went home with a frightened heart and a trembling body.
This event is so important because of the two lessons I have learned from it. First, it causes me to recognize the blessing of the fifth commandment. Had I followed my mother’s order and gone straight home after school that day, this awful experience would have been completely avoided. Because of my disobedience, I found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time. As a result, Satan was able to use this little boy as an instrument to lead me even further into disobedience. Not only was I dishonoring my mother, but now I was dishonoring my neighbors and stealing from them. And as my teenage years progressed, I committed more and more crimes against my neighbors until I was almost destroyed. All of this happened because I abandoned the blessing of the fifth commandment.
The second lesson I have learned from this experience is that it is better for me to be alone and obey than to join the crowd and disobey. Before I tried to fit in with other students, I was honoring my mother, getting good grades, and staying out of trouble. But because I wanted to be accepted, I started to disregard my mother’s orders. When I was alone, I was obedient and peaceful, but in the crowd I was rebellious and causing trouble. All of this happened because I abandoned the blessing of the fifth commandment.
So to help you to avoid making the same unwise decision I made, here is a poem for you to remember:
Obey your parents, this is right,
for this will bring eternal life.
Rebel and you will find for sure,
that death is waiting at your door.
A member of Steps to Life staff, Demario Carter works in the Mail Order Services Department. He can be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.