We managed to keep him talking about happy things all the way home, deeper and deeper into the “dark, spooky woods” as he later called it. It was after nine o’clock at night and, if you have never experienced it, there is nothing quite as dark as “country dark”—away from the streetlights, traffic lights, parking lot lights, and neon signs of the city. Only once or twice did he stray into the dangerous territory of “Where will I sleep tonight?” in a pensive tone of voice.
“We’re here!” we shouted as we pulled up to the gate, wondering aloud in excited voices if Chloe would come to meet us. That kept him happy as we pulled into the carport and unfastened his booster seat straps. Then, just as we walked toward the back porch, an owl screamed not fifty feet away, sounding every bit like a hysterical woman, followed by a “Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha” before finally settling into its usual “Who-hoo.” Silas was up those steps in a flash, plastered next to his grandfather’s leg and looking over his shoulders with eyes as big as Frisbees. How could I tell in the dark? Even in the dim starlight I could see white all the way around those big blue irises.
“Uh-oh,” I thought. “He will be terrified for the rest of the night.” Luckily Grandma had made some ooey-gooey chocolate cookies and that took care of the problem. That first impression, which could have ruined the entire stay, was fairly easily overcome, but I think it often is for children. It’s the adults among us who hang on to them.
And that brings me to today’s point. We all know that old saying, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” I wish we could remember that all the time, not just when we are meeting someone we hope to impress for our own selfish interests. Everyone who comes into contact with us, anywhere and any time, is a soul we might be able to save. What if that first impression you make is the only impression you will ever make?
I try to remind myself of that when I have a bad experience at a store or in a restaurant. If I fly off the handle and act like a jerk, if I indulge in harsh words that suit my sense of an injustice having been done me, demanding “my rights” as a customer or patron, how will I ever persuade them to study the Bible with me? Could I turn right around and hand them an invitation to church services, a gospel meeting, or a ladies Bible class? Just exactly what kind of reaction do you think I would get? Did you have a bad morning? Our bad moods can be very expensive—they can cost someone else his soul.
So remind yourself the next time you are caught in a tricky situation. Paul told the Corinthians they should be willing to suffer wrong so the church wouldn’t be ridiculed by the litigious behavior among them (1 Cor 6:7). What are we willing to suffer so the first impression we leave with someone, won’t guarantee that it will be the last?
Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us, Titus 2:7-8.