If he caught us looking at it too much, he would raise it in kind of a jest threat to pinch our noses in it. So we learned not to look at it – even though we were fascinated with it - and sneaked a peek whenever we could.
I knew his life wasn't easy because inevitably after two long sermons, during the closing prayer, he would pray the longest, most flowery, boring prayer I had ever heard. It had a whiny over-tone that was hard to listen to.
He always sat in the back corner up in the balcony and I would dread the sound of his voice. We were usually standing, leaning against the pew -- and have to be quiet as he droned on and on.
I remember some of us girls making fun of him after church. His clothes, his missing hand, his strange hook and his prayers made him a fair target. - except my father overheard us and reprimanded me sternly.
Then he told me the man's story.
Apparently some time ago – as a young man - he had been obsessed with a sin of some kind that he simply could not overcome. He had prayed and prayed to be released from this sin, but had no victory. In those days our houses were heated with wood. So one day as he was chopping the wood to heat his home, he took the ax in his left hand, and taking the Bible verse found in the book of Matthew, . “And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell,” he had literally chopped off his hand.
He had taken Jesus' example, a hyperbole, literally.
The community had been stunned with his actions.
My father warned me never to think of taking that verse literally or any of the verses meant to illustrate a truth, literally. There was a difference -between a commandment and an illustrative parable, he taught me sternly.
However, I did not miss the underlying awe and respect that my father had for this hillbilly -type of man who plead, humbly and fervently before his God every Sunday.
The lesson was clear to me as a child. Purity of soul was more important than any limb. The soul was to be preserved at all cost.
Because this world is broken, "letting go" of something destructive is necessary in life. Sometimes it means “chopping it off” or “cutting it off.”
This could mean smashing a beer bottle or breaking relationships with a friend who compromises us. It might be throwing a stash of magazines under the bed into the garbage. It might be throwing sugar into the wastepaper basket.
“Letting go” is not an action that comes easily nor naturally.
Murder comes with all kinds of side issues that threaten to compromise the soul.
“Sometimes drastic change requires drastic measures.” Veronica Roth