Seasons have a way of bringing their own hazards. Spring and Fall can bring floods, summer can bring drought and heat stroke, winter can bring frostbite and frozen flag poles. Churches can have seasons with hazards and benefits but first let me share a story of the frozen flagpole. It reminds us that there are skeptics who question whether the wisdom of others could be true. They have to learn the hard way.
Jean Shepherd has written A Christmas Story of a different kind. In her story, Ralph, Flick and Swartz huddle with a handful of other students trying to stay warm. As they talk and watch their speech turn into vapor clouds, one of the boys remembers a warning from his father – “if you touch your tongue to a frozen flagpole, you’ll never get it loose. You could be stuck there for life.” Another boy chimes in that his father knew someone who put their tongue on a frozen railroad track and had to be freed by the fire department.
The boy name Flick is skeptical and so one of the boys challenges him to go ahead and try licking the flagpole for himself. It took a double-dare to prod him to think about it but when a boy named Swartz triple dares him there is no turning back. Flick may not have wanted to but his pronounced skepticism and the peer pressure of a triple-dog dare meant no turning back. He stuck out his tongue and licked the flag pole. Sure enough – he’s stuck. When the bell rings for school and everyone runs he stays. His teacher has to call the fire department to free him.
Our skepticism of God’s laws and principles get us proudly committing ourselves to foolish choices. A quick look at pornography or mature rated movies, because we don’t believe we could be stuck to that frozen flag pole, leaves us wrestling with unwanted images in our minds. A compromise at work or in a relationship gets us stuck in a situation with consequences we couldn’t imagine.
Sometimes, it’s the little consequences which grab hold of us. We stick the tip of our tongue out and think that we could get away from a frozen flag pole at any time we want. We eat a little too much, a few too many times, and the results are slow in accumulating. We bypass our exercise, our devotions, our prayer times, our small group accountability, our church attendance, our giving, our use of our spiritual gifts and, all of a sudden, we realize our spiritual laziness starts showing in all the wrong ways.
Facing the peer pressure of our culture and society can push us into places of regret. Just as Flick couldn’t resist a triple-dog dare, we can easily fall to the pressure of the cultural, sexual, political, social, environmental, religious and educational voices around us. Technology and social media is a not so silent voice consistently pushing on our value of acceptance and inclusiveness. We are subject to a barrage of what is normal and tolerant and welcomed as one who belongs.
Scripture reminds us in Philippians 4:8 to focus on what the Bible considers to be true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. This is the grid that is designed to protect us from the compromises which get us frozen to the flag poles stuck on all around us in the winter of our lives. There are other dangers in the summer when we get dry and burned. Staying alert so we avoid the impact and regrets of poor choices is an important disciple for believers of all ages.
May God encourage you in your choices.
And remember, no matter how many frozen flag poles you’ve tried out in the past, you are loved more than you could ask or imagine. Pastor Jack