Mark 10:14 – Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. (KJV)
I first looked at page 186 over a half-century ago; now it's my computer's screen saver.
For my tenth birthday, Mama gave me a small black Bible and said, "Son, wherever you go, take it with you, and when you're alone, troubled, afraid, and have no one to turn to, turn to page 186."
I flipped to the page. Beneath a man with long, flowing hair and a beard were these words: "I am the way, the truth, and the life." (John 14:6 KJV)
Not long after that birthday, in a looping, boyish hand, I wrote a few words beneath those printed words. My scribbling is still there today: "Look at me."
During our growing up years, my brothers, sisters, and I were roused out of bed early on Sunday morning, fed a big breakfast, ordered to scrub ourselves from head to toe, dress in our Sunday best, and load up for the drive to town.
I enjoyed Sunday School because I was with my buddies, and it didn't last long. Not so for the main service — it lasted forever! The adults listened intently to the preacher, but I'd get confused, and my mind would wander. Reasoning that there can't be anything wrong with a boy reading the Bible in church, Mama gave up on trying to make me pay attention to the sermon, and let me read the Good Book instead.
Every so often, I'd flip to page 186. The more I looked at that man, the more I was captivated. But His eyes troubled me. His head was turned slightly, and the eyes had a faraway look in them. "Look at me," I'd whisper, so that Mama didn't hear. He never would.
One Sunday, I became so absorbed in the picture that I forgot where I was, and just short of a shout, said, "Look at me." Immediately everyone within earshot did just that, including Mama. I wanted to crawl under the pew.
The reason I believe so strongly in deterrence today is because Mama instilled it in me. In her mind, there was no grey area of leniency between misbehaving and punishment. I knew what was coming.
With willow switch in hand, she asked, "Son, why did you blurt out like that in church?" I flipped to page 186 and said, "Because He won't look at me, Mama."
She studied my scrawl at the bottom of the page a long time. Then, she did what she'd never done before. She laid the dreaded switch aside, folded me into her arms, and held me a long time.
"Son, Jesus loves you; He died for you. He looks at you every minute, every hour, every day, and He always will."
Mama has been with Jesus a long time, but she knows that I still look at His picture daily, and she knows, since that time so many years ago when I felt her loving arms around me, that I've never even wondered whether I should ask Him to look at me.
Prayer: Oh, Jesus, our Saviour, cause us to come before You as children and to hear Your Word, for it is certain You will teach us to love, fear, and obey the Lord. Amen.