I was four or five; not sure but I know I was little enough that Mom still took my brother and me to the ladies’ bathroom when in public. I was getting old enough to feel uncomfortable being herded in with a bunch of women. We lived on a quaint little farm in Northeast Missouri in the early 50s. Anyway, Mom and Dad took John and me to our very first high school basketball game.
The first thing at the door I heard for the first time ever, “Do you want your hand stamped?” Panic. Is this supposed to be said? I’m under eighteen here! Shall we all panic? You want to do what to me, lady? I had never heard that term before. The cashier asked it of all of us then she looked at Mom. Mom looked at me, “Do you want your hand stamped, son?” Now how am I supposed to know? Is this code to talk over the head of a four year old? It’s working. Who would know? I couldn’t fathom what a “hand stamp” might be until I looked at a strange implement setting on the cashier’s little desk. It was a typewriter; my first occasion to see one and was clueless as to what it did.
The woman was waiting on my answer. I studied that typewriter and concluded one was to put their hand down inside and then “smack-wham-bam” your hand would be crunched and smashed and stamped….and after that you got to watch the ballgame as an acceptable cripple. Why would Mom allow this to happen to her only oldest son? I quickly put my hands in my pockets as no one was touching them. I had rights. I opted for no hand-crunching on my first night. After all it would be a long season and I’d have plenty of opportunities to be initiated. After all I was just a little boy.
I wonder how many forty and sixty year olds feel the same about church. They don’t understand the code language and aren’t quite sure what all that Bible reading and pew sitting is supposed to accomplish. Just as hand-stamping and typewriters turned out not to be the painful villains I had assumed, neither is God and church. It just takes some study and some explanation. No panic necessary; just a heart ready to start life over is good enough.