My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27).
“Peter, give me that thumbtack!” The Primary class fell silent, every eye on Peter.
He surrendered the thumbtack, protesting, “Jeffrey started it!”
Sister Brock glanced at the boy next to Peter. He was sitting quietly with his scriptures open. She turned back to Peter. “Young man,” she scolded, “this is your last warning. I’ll have no more troublemaking!” She turned and hurried back to the blackboard.
Jeffrey smirked at Peter, flashing the thumbtack he’d been hiding in his pocket. Peter lunged for it. Sister Brock turned just as Peter slammed into Jeffrey, sending both boys crashing to the floor.
Peter’s triumph of getting even with Jeffrey quickly faded in the tomblike silence in the den at home. He squirmed under his father’s penetrating gaze. From His picture on the wall, the Savior seemed to be looking gravely down at him also.
Peter looked away. Even though Sister Brock had learned the truth after class—and Jeffrey was being talked to by his father—Peter knew that his temper had gotten him in trouble far too often.
Minutes passed. The only sound was the ticking of the wall clock. Why doesn’t he say something? Peter wondered as his father seemed lost in thought. Maybe he’s forgotten I’m here.
Dad’s voice interrupted Peter’s thoughts. “Peter, let’s pray.” His father had already knelt. Quickly Peter slid to his knees.
After praying for help to solve their problem, they both sat down. Then Dad leaned forward, his eyes measuring Peter. “Peter,” he said, “I want you to try an experiment. For the next three days, you are to try to follow Jesus’ example whenever you get angry. Do you think you’re strong enough?”
“Yes, Peter, strong enough.”
“But, Dad,” Peter objected, “Jesus never acted strong and tough.”
Dad seemed disappointed. “It takes a lot of strength to love and forgive others.”
Peter grumbled, “I know we should love others—but our enemies? And only cowards would turn the other cheek.”
Again, silence. Grown-ups were sure confusing.
“Are you strong enough?”
Peter gave up. “Sure,” he declared. “All I’ll have to do is nothing.”
“Glad to hear you’ll try this experiment. I think you’ll find that Jesus Christ was no coward.” Dad stood, offering his hand, “You can report to me on Wednesday after Scouts, OK?”
Peter shook his hand, smiling in relief. This would be a snap!
His first test came Monday after school. When he opened his bedroom door, his little sister, Amanda, and her friend Alex jumped in alarm. Plastic model pieces flew everywhere.
“My race car!” Peter shouted. “I’ve told you to leave my things alone!” He grabbed for Amanda, but she and Alex bolted for the door.
“You’re going to be sorry,” Peter fumed, steadying himself against his desk. His glance fell on his picture of the Savior with happy children around Him. Peter groaned. The experiment!
He breathed deeply, trying to calm down. How do I know what Jesus would do? he thought crossly. The Bible doesn’ttell us anything about Jesus having a little sister who wrecked His stuff!
All at once, Jesus’ crucifixion came to Peter’s mind. No, just people wrecking His life! he realized. Even when the soldiers killed Him, Jesus didn’t get mad. Instead, He asked Heavenly Father to forgive them. A quiet feeling settled on Peter. He began to feel sorry for getting angry at Amanda. He went to find her.
As soon as Amanda saw him, she began whimpering, “We didn’t mean to break it, Peter. It just slipped. …”
“I know,” Peter said softly. “I’m sorry I yelled at you. Come help me rebuild it, then I’ll show you how it works, OK?” The joy on Amanda’s face matched the warm glow in his heart.
His success carried him all the way to Wednesday morning, when Brad Duncan came back to school. The moment Brad dunked him at the drinking fountain, Peter knew that chicken pox had not improved Brad’s personality.
As Peter came up sputtering, his friend Jeremy grabbed his arm and shouted, “Come on—let’s get him!”
“Aw, let him go,” Peter answered.
“Let him go! Are you crazy?”
I must be, Peter thought. What could he say—Well, Jer, there’s this experiment … ? No, that’d really sound stupid. “Look,” he hedged, “it just isn’t worth the bother.”
“What’s wrong with you?” Jeremy challenged. “You getting wimpy or something?” When Peter didn’t answer, Jeremy shook his head in disgust and walked off.
Miserable, Peter went to class. Everyone had lined up at the door. Wednesday was library day. Peter noticed Jeremy whispering with some other kids. They gave Peter weird looks. Great! thought Peter. Now everyone thinks I’m a coward. He wondered if the Savior had felt like this when His friends deserted Him. How did He stand feeling so alone?
Just then Brad sauntered into class. Miss Lewis had him join Peter at the back of the line. “Hey, Pete,” he snickered, “your shirt’s all wet!”
Peter ignored him. All the way down the hall, Brad kept jabbing him, each time a little harder. Peter was really getting mad.
When Miss Lewis stopped at the office, Brad shoved Peter so hard that he went sprawling. Peter forgot all about the experiment. He scrambled up, his only thought was to get even with Brad Duncan! He shoved Brad against the wall. “Cut it out!” When Brad glared back, Peter clenched his fist.
“Peter!” Miss Lewis had returned. “Get back in line,” she ordered. “Brad, up here next to me!”
All at once Peter remembered the experiment! I’ve failed, he realized, I’m really not strong enough after all.
The rest of the day Peter worried about reporting to his father. The experiment had been harder than he’d ever imagined. Especially with Brad. Had Jesus felt like that with the Pharisees? What had kept Him from getting mad?
When Peter sat down in the den that evening, he felt too ashamed to look up. Then Dad asked the dreaded question. “Well, Peter, were you strong enough?”
Peter sighed. “Only sometimes,” he admitted.
“Tell me about it.”
So Peter told him, first about Amanda and then about Brad. When he finished, Dad was smiling warmly. Maybe he hadn’t understood.
“Dad,” Peter repeated, “I really tried, but I’m not even half as strong as Jesus.”
“I know, Peter. Neither am I.”
Peter was startled. Even his father struggled to be good?
As if reading Peter’s mind, Dad explained, “I think it takes all this life, and even some of the next, but you’ve taken a big step in that direction. I’m proud of you.”
Slowly the words sank in. Peter studied the Savior’s picture on the wall, thinking about what Dad had said. Someday, I’d like to be that strong, he thought.
He realized that Dad was waiting to go to dinner with him. When Peter walked over, his father gave his shoulder a firm squeeze. “Keep up the good work, Peter.”
Peter smiled back. “Thanks, Dad.”
“Thank you, Peter.”