The First Time I Sinned… – Jeremy Austill

I remember the moment
vividly. I was in the first grade on the far edge of the playground out of ear-shot
from our teachers or any other authority figures, surrounded by my “friends”.
The region in West Tennessee where I grew up is notorious for substantial
erosion issues. It is a place of fertile farmland but the soil, so nutrient
rich for crop growth, is also easily disturbed by rain and moving water. On the
outer rim of the elementary school playground was an area that was subjected to
the slope of the land and consistently washed out when the rains came. The
grass didn’t grow and it looked like a miniature model of the Grand Canyon with
ditches, recesses and ruts carved into the crusted soil. There among my 6 year
old peers I found myself, stick in hand, digging in the dirt.

On the surface
this was a seemingly innocent scene. I failed to realize I was
sitting in the middle of a toxic situation. One of my “friends” also took up
the act of digging in the dirt. Along with the boys from our class, my digging
buddy and I were also encircled by a healthy population of girls. At first, the
occasional outburst of giggling girls was mere background noise to the task at
hand. What we were trying to accomplish, to this day I have no idea. But more
frequently I noticed my friend was able to induce glee from the young ladies
and affirmation from the guys. As I observed more closely my ears picked up on
a familiar compilation of syllables. I had attended enough church to know this
particular combination of sounds coming from someone’s mouth was not good…as a
matter of fact, as far as I was concerned, it was sin. But I was mesmerized by
my “friends” sway over the crowd with the use of those words…cuss words. Here I
am digging just as diligently and with as much effectiveness as my buddy but
all the attention centered on his mouth. They all seemed to hang on every
quiver of his lip, longingly anticipating his next entertaining expletive.

My first grade logic knew
those words out of my mouth would be a violation of conscience, but maybe I
could euphemism my way into the admiration of my classmates. I reached for the
closest, not quite sin, word I could find that closely resembled its vulgar
counterpart. I didn’t quite cuss but I hoped I got close enough to the real
thing to garner to attention. Instead, I was met with a reprimand by my
earth-digging compatriot. He chastised me for not actually saying a cuss word
and then he threatened to excommunicate me from the dirt quarry if I did not
fully invest in the present vernacular. After a couple more attempts at
appeasement via euphemism it became clear that I had a choice to make…cuss or

 I cussed…

For the first time in my
life I overtly, consciously chose to defy my conscience and conviction and I
knew I had offended God. From there I joined the rest of humanity on the
slippery slope.

Today, I have a first grade son…I pray he is less subject to the pressure of peers and of greater substance than the 6 year old version of myself.

**The photo is my son, and that is basically what I looked like as a 1st grader…accept I lived in the early 80′s so the hair and fashion were markedly different…haha

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