When I was a boy, I was introduced early to a means my mother would use in dealing with each of us children—my brother, my sister and me. Whenever Mamma thought any of us might be tempted to be less than truthful because of the pressure of a situation where possible correction may follow an honest confession, she would take a precautionary step.
Instead of simply asking, “Did you do (such and such) … ?” she would precede the question with a statement. This statement had a very sobering effect on me, because it so vividly evidenced the reality of my accountability to be truthful in the eyes of God. Mamma would say, “I’m going to ask you a difficult question, Jack. But before I do, I want to say, I’m asking it ‘in front of Jesus.'”
She wasn’t playing games.
She wasn’t threatening.
She wasn’t using a religious ploy.
Rather, in our house, we took the Lord seriously. Our home was a happy place to live, but we really believed in the genuine things about God’s love, His kindness, His blessing, His salvation in Christ and the beautiful truth of His Word. And when Mamma would say, “In front of Jesus,” a powerful image would come to my mind.
We all knew God is everywhere, all the time. But there was a unique sense of the immediacy of the Living Lord when those words were spoken. I could imagine Jesus seated on a throne immediately to my left as I stood face-to-face with my mother and prepared to hear whatever question she had.
A Visit to Dicky’s House
I was about 11 years old, and I had come home from a friend’s house one afternoon, having spent most of the morning at Dicky’s—a kid a few months older than I who lived across the street. We played together a great deal of the time, so there was no reason for anything unusual to be thought when I came home that day.
But I discovered the next morning, as I was about to leave for school, that my mother had “felt” something about my return home that day.
I had just finished my breakfast and was about to leave the kitchen and get my school things so I could head out. But I was stopped before I left the room when my mother turned from the kitchen sink, and while drying her hands said, “Jack—I want you to wait a minute. I need to talk with you.”
Her voice had that tone which children recognize in their parents when the issue is sobering and the consequences might be undesirable. I stood there, nervously waiting for what she was going to say.
“Son, when you came home from Dicky’s yesterday, I had a very strange feeling go through me.” She paused, thoughtfully. “At first, I didn’t know what to do about it; then, I prayed last night, and I believe the Lord showed me simply to do what I’m doing right now.
“Jack, I want to ask you what happened at Dicky’s house yesterday. And I’m asking this—in front of Jesus.”
I was frozen to the floor. The moment was one of those crystalline ones that seems as though it could be shattered by a whisper. On the one hand, I knew what happened at Dicky’s house and knew I didn’t want anyone else to know. And on the other hand—there to my left—the Throne of my Living Savior, Jesus Christ, was as real to me as though I were in heaven itself.
I began slowly … awkwardly … guiltily. “Well, Mamma,” I said rather quietly and with hesitation. “When I was at Dicky’s, after we’d been playing in the living room for a long time, he said to me, ‘C’mon into my room a minute.’
“When he said that, he kinda laughed, and looked around to see if his mom or dad were anywhere they could hear. Right then I felt something bad was about to happen, but I went with him anyway.
“When we got in his room, he closed the door and then opened one of the drawers in the chest there. He reached way back and brought out a little tiny telescope.”
I hesitated all the more, feeling the embarrassment of the confession I was about to make.
“But Mamma, it wasn’t a telescope.” I paused again. Waiting. Not wanting to go on. “Instead, Mamma, when you looked into it, there was … a naked woman.” My eyes were moist. I looked into the face of my mother, feeling ashamed.
“What did you do, Son?” she inquired.
“We laughed,” I admitted.
“How did you feel then?”
“Mamma,” I said with sincerity, “I felt bad.”
“Then, Son, what do you want to do now?”
I walked toward my mother, whose arms opened to me as I did, as I said, “I want to pray, Mamma.”
And we did.
And although that event took place over six decades ago, at its root is a truth that has always continued to be just as alive and present today as it was then. I am living my life in front of Jesus.
I’ll never know how many things that morning’s confrontation and confession may have saved me from in my yet-to-be-realized future as a teenager and young man. Just as surely as I don’t really know “how many” of anything I do or have done may have contributed to some degree of fruitfulness in my life and ministry, as others have asked me to quantify human efforts.
But I do know this.
I know that there are no limits to what God can do in a life, what He can do through a life, and what He can grow around and within a life, when it’s lived—in front of Jesus.
That’s the place where integrity of heart will always be sustained. For our consciousness will be on Him, not on things. And with Jesus in view, all life, fruitfulness and fulfillment are certain to be realized with time—however tempting or trying the path.
Let’s live our lives out that way.
In front of Jesus.