My Way Only

The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-Charge - Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

Have you met people who said their way of doing something was the only way to do it? I certainly have. And some people say their church is the only true church and that one must belong to that denomination to be saved. Such insistence is uncomfortable for anyone of a different persuasion. As a child in a parochial school my friends tried to persuade me to join their denomination so I wouldn’t go to hell. My choice was to go to a different school. Other denominations make the same claim, some of which aren’t even 200 years old.

There is a parable that shows how ridiculous it is to insist that “my way is the only way.”

Once upon a time there was a woman who picked up a stick while on a hike. It was just the right height and sturdiness for walking, and so it became her walking stick. As she hiked down to the beach, she passed a man with a stick that was almost identical to hers. He

used his to draw pictures in the sand. Since the woman assumed that the stick should be used as a walking stick, she went up to him and said, “Oh, honey, you’re using that wrong! That’s a walking stick. Here, let me show you how that works.”

As she reached for his stick the man responded, “Umm, who are you? This is my drawing stick. I’m not sure who you think you are to tell me how to use this!” So they argued for awhile, getting more and more insistent that each had the right answer and the other was wrong. He replied, “You’re wrong and you’re stupid! Go away!”

I received this parable from a friend of mine; and a colleague of his, the Reverend Sylvia Miller-Mutia, a mother of three small children, proposed a new ending to the parable that could provide a congenial conversation rather than war. This is her ending:

While they were shouting at each other the man raised his stick as though he was about to hit the woman with the walking stick. Just then, another hiker with her three small children came along and asked what the commotion was all about. Once she understood the dispute she said to them,

“Ok. Let’s re-examine this. Both of you have a stick for which you have designated a use. Both make sense, and both are useful to you. Ma’am, you are right in using your stick as a walking stick. Sir, you are right in using your stick as a drawing stick. You might both even try using it the way the other does to see how that works for you. However, as a mother, may I offer some wisdom I’ve learned from my kids? What ever use you make, do not use the stick as a weapon.” Let those with ears hear.

Hopefully, we will not fall into the trap of making our stick, the Bible (or our denomination) a weapon to condemn people to hell. The good news of the Gospel is that we are all forgiven children of God, from various backgrounds, with various interpretations of the Bible, yet given the opportunity to be in relationship with one another and to grow in love with God. “My way only” is short sighted and can be hurtful.

The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-Charge

Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

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