The Power of Choice

by | May 17, 2011 | Choices

In my half-century of daily experiences I have faced many threats, and I learned, early on, that threats are usually not met with the anticipated reaction.

My first experience with threats was in kindergarten. It was an experience I will never forget. And if I do, my family will be quick to remind me about it!

Apparently I was a royal terror in kindergarten. (Though I am no longer in kindergarten, I’m afraid to say that the “terror” part hasn’t changed much!) It is said that because of me, my teacher almost resigned. But to be perfectly honest, at least some of my deviant behaviour was caused by circumstances outside of my control. You see, I could barely understand my teacher. Though we lived in a Dutch-speaking city of Belgium, we spoke French at home, and it wasn’t until I reached school age that I was exposed, on a regular basis, to this “gibberish”. Or at least, that’s what Dutch sounded like to me at first! I would learn, quickly enough, that “ja” meant “yes” and “neen” meant no, but beyond that, I felt like I was working for the allied forces, deciphering some mysterious spoken code!

And sometimes (most of the time???) I got it wrong. For example, I would take one look at my teacher, who was obviously upset, and interpret “Robby komt hier op dit ogenblik!” (Robby come here right now!) to mean that I should run as far away from her as possible! Other times the teacher would give us thorough instructions regarding an upcoming task, and I would do the task completely wrong, never even realizing that I had misunderstood.

Unfortunately, though my mistakes were mostly of the “innocent” variety, it wreaked havoc in the classroom. You see, all of my fellow kindergarteners would follow my lead, and I quickly discovered that I liked their attention! Soon I was deliberately acting like the class clown. Even if I couldn’t understand the other boys and girls in my class, I could make them laugh! Wasn’t that a worthy pursuit?

My teacher was basically a patient woman, and she spent a lot of extra time with me at the beginning of the school year, trying to help me learn Dutch. Eventually her patience wore thin, however, and that’s when the threats began. Most of her threats were quite intriguing. Especially when she told me one day that if I continued, I’d end up under her desk! Curious to see what was under there, I persisted, and she had no choice but to follow through with her threat.

It was fun at first. I kind of felt like the children in Narnia. But I soon became bored, not a very good thing for a kindergartener, and I began looking for something to stimulate my mind. If I stuck my head out from under the desk, I could just see the teacher’s bell. Perfect! I grabbed it, and I quickly learned that ringing the bell under the teacher’s desk brought about lots of laughter. Naturally I persisted. Why not? At least I was bringing joy to the classroom!

It wasn’t long before I found myself waiting, with my mother, outside the principal’s office. I began to panic. I was only 5 years old, and I was already in trouble with the “law”! Did this make me a born criminal?

We were soon ushered in and the principal proceeded in administrating a well-deserved lecture. But deserved or not, lectures are boring. Especially for five year olds. I decided to cut my misery short. I took my principal’s hand and looked him straight in the eyes.

He stopped in mid-sentence, no doubt wondering what I was about to do.

In my broken Dutch I told him: “Don’t worry, I won’t ever do it again!”

There was total silence for a full minute, and then the principal burst out laughing. Hey, not bad for a day! I had succeeded in not only making my classmates laugh, but also my principal!

Funny, though. While I learned at a very early age that threats don’t work, I still find myself trying to use them sometimes on other people . . .

The Bible teaches us not to use threats: “And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favouritism with him.” (Eph 6:9 NIV)

Remember: We base threats on our own selfish desires to force things to go our way, and then we are astonished when it doesn’t work! Instead the apostle Paul encourages us to: “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” (Eph 6:10 NIV)

If we rely on God’s power instead of on our own, we will go much farther in life!

Remember: Our God is a God of choices. He has given us the freedom of choice since the beginning of time. Not only does this give us power, but it’s also God’s way! “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” (Josh 24:15 NIV)

Do you happen to know where I could find a teacher’s bell?

P. S. Keep smiling, God loves you!

Rob Chaffart


The Power of Choice