In advance of this weekend’s Scout Sunday
“Graceful boys.” One wouldn’t normally pair those two words together when thinking about teenage boys, either in terms of physical dexterity or personal habits. And when I find myself in the midst of 982 boys at a summer Boy Scout camp in Georgia, I’m reminded that junior high boys are not known for their couth. They resist showers, attract dirt, eat with their hands, mercilessly poke fun at each other, knock caps off each other’s heads, mess up bathrooms, slouch during flag ceremonies, wear the same socks for a week, refuse to go “#2” in the latrines, and a whole host of other behaviors I won’t list.
Nevertheless, these boys do have a saving virtue: their short memories. Of course, sometimes this can be an aggravating trait when a boy has misplaced his pocket knife or water bottle for the umpteenth time. But it comes in handy when they have a fight, a homesickness attack, or poop their pants. They forgive quickly: they seem to forget what it was they’re mad about. They wake up after falling asleep crying for their mom, and it’s a new day. The boys tend not to mention the unmentionable mistakes because they’ve all been there. There is an unwritten code in boy friendships: “We’re going to pretend that never happened.” And they don’t speak of it; it’s done. Boys can recover from tears of frustration over an “impossible” basket weaving project with a cone of soft serve ice cream. And that unfortunate “code brown” incident was sooo four hours ago! Two Scouts who were literally swinging punches at each other can, after being on the same team in a relay race, be laughing together at the dinner table. For these boys — who change so rapidly in body, mind, and spirit — every day is indeed a chance to be a new creation. The old passes away: behold, the new has come! And that’s grace.
As a guy (read: “slightly grown up boy”), I wonder if, despite my own lack of couth, God is still willing to let me change and be new. For many of us, junior high was difficult. But change (and becoming a new creation) always is. What if we took our “awkwardnesses” to be a sign that God is actually working with us as our (Scout) Master? What if we allowed our memories of others’ failings to be as short as God’s is of ours, when he remembers what Jesus has done on the Cross? What if we recovered the grace of the awkward boy, who is willing to forget slights and embarrassment? What if we accepted God’s offer to let our sins and be sooo four hours ago? What if you heard the graceful silence of God’s offer to never speak of it again, to let your accidents simply be done and in the past? As we say in Scouts, every boy gets a new day every morning in camp. And God says that to you today.
So, “Be Prepared!”
The featured image is “sharing a graceful moment at summer camp: Matt and Tommy Price at Garden of the Gods, CO.” It was supplied by the author.