In the summer of 2011, Tonya and I loaded the boys into the Dodge Caravan and headed down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for a vacation. Ryan was fourteen years old at the time and Royce was ten. One experience from that vacation stands out as memorable, and I’d like to use this post to share it with you.
It was our last night on the town, the Thursday night before we checked out of the hotel on Friday morning and began the long trip home. Since the boys had never experienced the attractions and stores of Myrtle Beach’s famous Ocean Boulevard, we drove up there and made a night of that whole scene. For starters, Royce went into the Ripley’s Haunted Adventure while Ryan went into the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum. Next, they both went into one of the arcades and played some skeet ball. That’s the game where you roll the ball up the ramp and try to make it jump into certain holes. Some holes are worth more than others, and in the end you are awarded tickets based upon your point total. Then you take those tickets to the counter and swap them for a prize. The more tickets you have, the better prize you get.
Okay, so Ryan goes to one lane and Royce goes to another, and when Ryan finishes his game, his tickets start rolling out of the machine appropriately. But when Royce finishes his game nothing happens, even though he has accumulated enough points to earn some tickets. So now Tonya and I have a decision to make. Do we let the injustice go and chalk it up to bad luck? Or do we take the time to go tell a worker that the machine hasn’t awarded Royce the tickets he has earned? In the end, we decided to go and tell, a decision that was surely helped along by the fact that Royce was quite upset about not getting any tickets while his brother did.
After we reported the problem to the girl at the counter, she came over to the machine, gave it a quick inspection, and very politely said, “I’ll call our maintenance guy, but this will take a few minutes. Will you wait?” At this point, I was beginning to regret saying anything because there was no telling how long it might take this fellow to get there. But as the old saying goes, “In for a penny, in for a pound.” So, we agreed to wait.
Thankfully, the young man wasn’t too long in coming, and he quickly diagnosed that the machine had simply run out of tickets. He then pulled out a big roll of tickets and reloaded the machine. That’s when things got interesting. As he finished the reloading, he said, “Now get ready because whatever amount of tickets this machine should have been giving out all along is going to come out, and your boy is going to get them all.” Ever the pessimist, I thought to myself, “Sure, sure. We’re probably talking four or five extra tickets here. The thing probably ran out just before Royce played it.”
Oh, but then those tickets started rolling out. They rolled and rolled and rolled until finally they were spilling down onto the floor! My eyes lit up and so did Tonya’s, and Royce squealed in delight. Ryan, who can’t be anything but the classic older brother, just stood there green with jealousy because he had actually gotten a higher score than Royce and should have ended up with more tickets than him. On and on the scene went as the tickets continued to stream out of that machine. At one point, the worker grinned at us and reminded us, “Remember, I’m giving him all these tickets.”
So, what was that final total? We ended up with approximately 275 free tickets. To put that total into perspective, Ryan had won about ten with his game and Royce had earned even less than Ryan. Obviously, that machine had been out of tickets for a long time and a great number of kids had played it and taken their losses without reporting the problem. We ended up splitting the tickets between the boys and letting them go nuts cashing them in for multiple gifts at the counter.
And that brings me to the spiritual application of all this. It’s a simple one, really. Since God has called us Christians to be “salt” and “light” in this world, He will bless us when we take the role seriously and speak out when something is wrong. You see, He doesn’t want us to just sit back and let wrong go unchallenged. While the rest of the world seems forevermore willing to accept a status quo that is just plain ungodly, we, as Christians, should never stop trying to make that status quo better by speaking out against its ills.
Christian, could it be that you are right now in the throes of a situation that desperately needs some spiritual salt and light? Even more than that, could it be that you are the one whom God is burdening to spread that salt and provide that light? I’m really not trying to stir up trouble for you here, but the fact is that life’s skeet-ball machines don’t get fixed until someone points out the problem.
Now, will your attempt to correct a wrong situation be well received? That’s tough to answer because each situation is different. Just as me speaking up that night at Myrtle Beach resulted in a pleasant outcome, the single worst experience of my entire life (and my family’s life) came as the result of me speaking up in another far more egregious situation. What you must always remember, though, is that God doesn’t hold you responsible for how your efforts are received.
Think of it this way: Once you’ve thrown out the salt and turned on the light, your job is done, and God will then reward you somehow or someway with some tickets of blessing. I can’t predict exactly what those tickets will be, any more than I can predict how others will respond to you bringing salt and light to the situation. But what I can do is assure you that God is definitely in the business of granting rewards — in this life, the afterlife, or both — to those who perform difficult assignments for Him.