As a child and into young adulthood, I heard those words from time to time. Specifically, I heard them nearly every time I did something wrong and couldn’t squirm, weasel, or outright lie my way out of it.
Come to think of it, saying I heard those words “from time to time” isn’t completely true. I heard them far more frequently than that.
The inference, of course, is that I was raised to know right from wrong, good from bad, and so on and therefore should have known better than to do the thing that got me in trouble.
Looking back on those carefree days of my early childhood, I can safely say that I liked to see how close to the edge I could get before hearing my name called out. I came to understand that when I heard a loud “RONALD!” I had fallen off that edge and it was only a matter of time before the hammer would fall.
Like the time when I was 8 or 9 years old, and I started a small fire on the floor in the hay loft of our barn. Actually, I prefer to think of it as a ‘controlled burn’ because I went to great pains to make sure I had cleared the immediate area of any excessive hay that could catch the barn on fire.
Which, by the way, I never got the proper credit for.
Anyway, all was going according to plan until one of my two younger sisters who were there with me ‘somehow’ managed to burn her finger and headed to the house, crying like a baby. Captivated by my advanced fire making skills in the middle of the barn floor, my other sister and I never gave her a second thought.
That is until a few minutes later when I saw my dad’s head at the top of the ladder. What followed next can only be described as “other worldly”, because it is simply not possible for a human being to move as quickly from the top of a ladder to where my small, ‘controlled burn’ was.
In a nanosecond, with super human skills that would make Jason Bourne envious, my dad had leaped off the ladder with a single bound, extinguished the ‘controlled burn’, grabbed me and threw me across a bale of hay, and proceeded to give me a whipping for the ages with a strap of leather that was hanging on a nail just seconds prior.
Thankfully, the years have dulled my memory to the point where I cannot remember which was the loudest, the thud of the leather strap across my body or the screams coming from the deepest recesses of my soul.
After what seemed like a good 30 or 40 minutes at the hands of my inquisitor, (though in reality it was not quite that long) I was released from the ‘hayloft turned torture chamber’ and sent to the house with strict orders to go straight to bed.
No supper. No TV. No bath (yeah!). No nothing. I still remember my mom coming into the bedroom to check on me, and her pleading with my dad to at least let me eat supper. That wasn’t happening, of this I was made sure. Now THAT hurt!
Later on, my sisters snuck into my room to see if I was still alive. Either that, or they wanted me to know that the chicken leg, mashed potatoes, gravy, and biscuits that was supposed to be my supper did not go to waste, thank you very much.
So, I stayed in my room until the next morning. I don’t remember the specifics, but I do know that at some point that morning there was a very stern discussion, I mean LECTURE, about the dangers of playing with matches in a hay filled barn loft.
Even after all that had happened, I tried to plead my case by saying how responsible I had been by clearing away the hay and choosing the best place for my campfire. My dad, however, was hearing none of it. Knowing how to start a fire on the river bank was an admirable skill it seemed, while in the barn, not so much.
I can’t recall how many times the phrase “you know better than that” was used during THE LECTURE. No doubt I heard it many times that day, as well as the ensuing days when I was assigned some type of hard labor as further punishment for my foolishness.
I’d love to be able to say that this escapade forever changed my thought process, and from this day forward I was never again to engage in anything so dangerous and foolish. Yes, I would love to be able to say that.
But I can’t. Oh, to be sure I never played with matches in the barn again. But I did many other, equally dangerous things through the years as I was growing up. When my dad died when I was 12 years old, I went through a rough period of several years of living as close to the edge as I could get. Things like riding in a friend’s car doing 145 MPH on a two-lane country road, for example.
And worse. Much worse.
I suppose though that all of us do things we know better than to do, which I guess is why my Princess reminds me from time to time that I still need ‘direction’.
No doubt, it’s in our DNA to push the envelope. I believe that is how our Creator made us, to push the boundaries, to explore the unknown, to be curious enough to try something for the 1st time. Not destructive things, mind you, but things that require us to reach beyond ourselves. Things that require us to reach out to a Power far beyond our own.
When we do things that we know are wrong, or dangerous, or destructive, there is a still small voice that reminds us that “you know better than that”. It isn’t a condemning voice, but rather a Father’s voice, born of concern and love for His children.
My prayer is that we will come to know that Voice, and that we will allow it to be our guide when making life’s many decisions.
Trust me on this, it sure beats the consequences of acting on our own impulses!