A Backpack Full of Bad Choices

By Linda Porter Carlyle

Joseph Anderson Donetti hurried down the hall to his classroom. He hoped he wasn’t late. He hated being late. It was embarrassing. G.M. had told him a story about how she had been late for a concert once. The ushers wouldn’t even let her in until the intermission. For the whole first half of the concert she could only listen to the music that leaked through the doors into the lobby. Well, at least Pastor Chuck would let him in even if he did turn out to be a little late. He grinned at the thought of ushers in the hall outside the classroom saying, “You cannot go in now. You have to wait for intermission.”

“Hey, Joseph! I saved you a seat!” Trevor called out as Joseph slid through the door.

“Glad you could join us today,” Pastor Chuck said with a smile.

Joseph smiled back at Pastor Chuck, and then he glanced at the front of the room. “Why is there a pile of rocks up there?” he whispered to Trevor.

Trevor shrugged. “Pastor Chuck won’t tell us yet.”

Joseph noticed other odd things. A hopscotch outline was taped to the floor. And two backpacks leaned against the wall.

“OK, kids, let’s get started,” Pastor Chuck said, closing the classroom door. He turned around. “I’m going to need two helpers.”

Everyone shot a hand into the air. “Pick me! Pick me!” Trevor shouted, bouncing in his chair.

Pastor Chuck laughed. “All right,” he said. “I’ll pick Trevor because he seems to be the most eager, and I’ll pick Mac because she was the first one here this morning. Come on up to the front,” he instructed, “and each of you put on a backpack.”

Trevor stuck his arms through the straps of the black backpack, and Mac put on the dark green one.

“You do know how to play hopscotch, don’t you?” Pastor Chuck asked.

“Sure!” Mac answered. “It’s one of our rainy day recess games at school.”

“But I don’t play it,” Trevor interrupted. “I think it’s a girls’ game.”

“Well, today it’s a game for everybody,” Pastor Chuck said. “Mac, you go first and show Trevor how it’s done.”

Mac skipped lightly through the hopscotch, and Trevor followed a little more slowly.

“Was that hard?” Pastor Chuck asked.

“No,” Mac and Trevor answered.

“Today we’re talking about choices,” Pastor Chuck said. “Especially about bad choices.” He bent down and picked up two baseball-sized rocks. He unzipped the backpacks and put a rock in each one. “Now go through the hopscotch game again,” he instructed.

Again, Mac led the way, and Trevor followed.

“Was that any harder?” Pastor Chuck asked.

“Not really,” Trevor answered.

“Well, come here,” Pastor Chuck said, bending down to pick up two more big rocks. “These rocks represent bad choices. You both have made another bad choice.” He added one rock to each backpack.

“You want us to hop again, don’t you?” Mac asked.

“That’s right!” Pastor Chuck said.

Mac and Trevor both hopped through the hopscotch outline again.

“Was that hard?” Pastor Chuck asked.

“Maybe a little bit harder than jumping with no rocks at all,” Mac answered. “But it wasn’t too bad.”

“Whoops!” Pastor Chuck exclaimed. “You both made another bad choice. “Come get another rock.”

Trevor stopped after hopping through the game again. “It’s getting harder,” he said.

“And it’s not as much fun to play when you have rocks on your back,” Mac added. “They’re heavy and make me feel off-balanced.”

Pastor Chuck added one more big rock to each backpack. “Try that,” he said.

Both Trevor and Mac were panting by the time they hopped through the game.

“I get it! I get it!” Mac said, taking a deep breath. “You want to show us how bad choices have a bad effect on us.”

“And if we keep making bad choices, it just gets harder,” Trevor said.

“If you put too many rocks in the backpacks, they wouldn’t even want to play anymore,” Joseph said. “It would be too hard and no fun at all. And maybe life isn’t as much fun if we make too many bad choices.”

Pastor Chuck’s eyes twinkled. “That’s exactly it!” he said. “God doesn’t want His children to make life harder than it has to be. So He has given us some good instructions about making good choices.”

Pastor Chuck reached over and picked up his Bible from the top of the piano. “God loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for us so we can live with Him forever. That’s the most important thing the Bible tells us. But God also wants us to have a good life here on earth. He wants to bless us with good health and good relationships. But we can mess things up pretty badly by making bad choices. So God tells us lots of things in the Bible about how to make good choices. We’re going to talk about some of those good choices today.”

Donni waved her hand in the air. “Before we do,” she asked, “can I play the bad-choices-rocks-hopscotch game?”

Pastor Chuck grinned. “Sure! We’ll let everyone have a turn. Donni, you and Hannah can be next.”

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