When he was 11 years old, he knew the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared.
For years he put that motto into practice on campouts, in school, in sports, and at home. To him, being prepared meant not letting events control him. Instead, he sought to control events by being properly equipped and trained. He packed his snakebite kit, poncho, pocketknife, and Scout-gear religiously—seldom using much of it, but learning the value of planning. He did his homework, studied to be ready for questions at school, and seldom missed an opportunity to train for athletics—even dribbling a basketball all the way to and from school. He read Boys Life monthly and took to heart the accounts of rescue and helping others in emergencies.
He repeated the Scout Oath and Law so often they became a part of him. Honor and doing one’s best for God and country were not just sayings, but goals to live by. Trustworthiness, loyalty, helpfulness, friendliness, courteousness, kindness, obedience, cheerfulness, thriftiness, bravery, cleanliness, and reverence for God were high ideals that guided his thinking, if not always his actions.
That preparation paid off. He got into a good college, advanced in athletics, went to grad school, and became a leader in the military, business, and the church. The principles he learned in Scouting gave him confidence, direction, and pride—a pride that turned to arrogance and the self-delusion that one could do anything if determined enough. Little did he know he’d become a moralist, a modern day Pharisee, depending on his own self-discipline and abilities to hold to the principles he’d learned. He was now independent and self justified, or so he thought.
He knew the principles—he didn’t know their source. He was a socially acceptable success in every way and yet enslaved to his motto. How could one be prepared for all that life hurls at us? Being prepared to be a husband, father, CEO, godly man, teacher, protector, provider, and family spiritual leader was overwhelming. He was hard on himself and everyone near him, unforgiving and demanding of all. Doing was all; being was unknown.
Along came grace. Some say it turns the world upside down, but for him it turned it right-side up. At first he thought this “Christianity stuff” was a great add-on, but he learned differently. He needed a complete lobotomy. Christ was not a bauble to pin on to an already solid character but a life-giver to a putridly dead corpse. Corpses have no redeeming qualities to add onto. None of the principles he’d learned were bad, but without their source, Christ, they were cold, lifeless, and stifling. The principles needed to be the genuine outgrowth of who he’d become and not the basis for earning merit badges.
Finally he was really prepared—prepared for the one encounter that all men and women will face, bar none—an appointment with his Creator. Now his motto was not “Be prepared,” but, “I was prepared by Another, and I am now prepared.”