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Just This Once?

2573262564_d85b6970f6_bI recently read an article written by Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen. Entitled “The Bottom Line on Happiness,” it is based on a lecture he gives his students on their last day in his class. Christensen’s point is that the business principles students learn must also be applied to their personal lives. One of the subheads is “Avoid ‘Just This Once’.”

As parents, we’ve heard this phrase uttered by our children. “Can’t I stay over at my friend’s house, just this once?” Or “I promise I won’t ruin it. Let me use it . . . just this once!” Do you remember using the same phrase? I do.

I wasn’t very girly for being a girl. I didn’t like to wear dresses, cringed at the sight of pink, played baseball in an all- boy league, and prided myself in the fact that I could hold my own in that league. There was one problem. We played games on Wednesday nights. That might not seem like such a big deal, but for a pastor’s kid during Lent . . . it was huge. Lenten services began at the same time my games did. To a middle schooler full of drama, the answer was “My team needs me!” Week after week, I begged, pleaded, rolled my eyes, slammed doors, and cast wrath on any sibling in my path. Just this once couldn’t I play and skip church?

With my baseball career seemingly hanging in the balance, the decision took my dad zero seconds. Church first. Then the game. So each week I went to church, wearing my little league uniform under a brown and white dress that snapped down the front. I didn’t care that every- one could see my green uniform with BARNETT BANK clearly visible through the dress. I wanted everyone to know the sacrifice I was making. Apparently I had forgotten the purpose of Lent: to focus on the ultimate sacrifice Christ made. As soon as church ended, I would rip off my dress, Superman-style, as I ran to the car, and my mom would drive me to the ball field, where I would assume my position at first base . . . in the middle of the fourth inning.

Christensen says, “The lesson I learned is that it’s easier to hold to your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold to them 98 percent of the time. If you give in to ‘just this once,’ . . . you’ll regret where you end up.” Just ask Adam and Eve.

What significance do the words just this once have in our lives? Maybe we need to ask the teenage mom or the alcoholic or the drug addict. What would their lives be like if not for the words just this once? Thinking in Bible terms: What if Noah had said, “Just this once I won’t build the ark,” when God issued his command? What if, just once, Jesus had given in to Satan’s temptations? What if, just once, Jesus had decided that suffering and dying for the sins of all people was crazy? What if…?

I am thankful today for my mom and dad who stood their ground, who listened to my screams of “Just this once!” and then proceeded to teach me a life lesson about the importance of God’s Word in our lives. Their grandchildren are now learning the same one. I am also thankful to our Savior, who suffered and died for that selfish middle-school sinner: me. How amazing that Jesus can take some little words that cause us such grief, just this once, and turn them into something incredible: Just this once I died for you! There is our bottom line on happiness.

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By Heather Bode, from Parents Crosslink © 2011 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Heather Bode lives with her husband and children
 in Helena, Montana.

Image by Shona1968 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.