By Ken Laue
The monsoons were long gone and the tall grass on the lower slopes of the Huachuca Range was dry and brown.
The whole world was dry and brown on that bitter cold November day in 1963 when I left Fort Huachuca.
Together with Mom and two of my brothers I rode the shuttle to Tucson, and from there we took a military plane to Charleston, South Carolina.
In the morning, we boarded a three-tailed Constellation prop-driven passenger liner for the long and arduous flight over the Caribbean and Central America.
After hours of turbulence, the flight crew opened the door and a blast of hot, humid air hit me in the face.
We had arrived at our destination: Howard Air Force Base in the Panama Canal Zone.
A tall, green wall of jungle blocked my entire view of the surrounding countryside.
I felt stifled and closed in by this tropical barrier, so different from the open vistas of distant mountain ranges I knew back home in Arizona.
Oh, how I hated this new place in my first moments!
The only bright spot was Dad, in uniform, waiting at the bottom of the walkway to whisk us home.
It was growing dark as we arrived at Fort Clayton, on the very edge of the rainforest.
But before we could safely get out of the car at our quarters, Dad and my big brother Steve killed a deadly fer-de-lance snake in the carport.
Dad told us that one soldier on the base had narrowly escaped death recently from a fer-de-lance bite.
It took all the doctoring the doctors could muster, and the guy just barely survived his ordeal.
Due to this and other types of poisonous snakes (like the large bushmasters) – and to the other perils real or imagined – most of the Americans on Fort Clayton never ventured into the rainforest.
But to teenage boys like my friend Rick, and big brother Steve and me, the jungle was a never-ending source of adventure just waiting to be lived.
And the key to exploring the wonders of tropical nature here was the machete. We each kept one in hand at all times.
I had never heard of a machete, let alone used one. But in Panama I found it was essential in blazing a trail through the rainforest.
Even established trails were quickly overgrown again within a few days, requiring the maintenance of the cold, hard edge of the oversized knife.
But without a file along for sharpening, you would quickly find your adventure cut short.
Because the endless chopping and slashing of vines, branches, and brush quickly dull the machete’s cutting edge, doubling or even tripling the effort required.
Plus, you know the old Boy Scout adage that a dull knife is far more dangerous than a sharp one.
A dull blade can glance off its target and rebound into its wielder.
Yes, the simple machete was our constant companion on our explorations. It also doubled as protection against snakes and other dangerous creatures… and even against two-legged predators.
These reminisces about my teenage adventures remind me of some principles of the Christian life.
Every good machete needs a file, and every good Christian needs to be sharpened.
Proverbs 27:17 says: "Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."
If you want to be an effective believer, you can't be a "lone ranger Christian" – that is, one who is not attached to a local Bible-believing church.
Just like a dull machete is more dangerous than a sharp one, a dull Christian is scarcely an asset to the Kingdom. When it comes to raising kids, we as Christian parents must be the file to the sharpen the spiritual blades that we want our children to grow up to become... which means we parents have to be sharp instruments ourselves.
But how can we be effective spiritual teachers unless we place ourselves in a body of believers where our Christian leaders and church-mates can keep up sharp?
We must strive to maintain a teachable attitude, to be able to teach, and to be a good example.
We must develop the ability to take a warranted rebuke from another believer or leader before we are qualified to correct others, especially our kids.
Have you ever been pulled over for a traffic violation while your kids are with you in the car?
How did you treat the officer?
With respect and humility?
Or was your annoyance what was being projected?
If you're in the wrong, you have to own up to it, or your kids will learn to blame others for their own shortcomings.
Sharper than any machete, the Word of God is "sharper than any two-edged sword," it tells us inHebrews 4:12.
But I submit to you that the Word is at the same time a file that, when applied to our lives, will keep us sharp.
The Word of God received through our daily Bible study, the sermons of our pastors, or in the advice of a church friend, is a basic element of that file that shapes the machete of our lives.
Just as my file during my teen years in Panama was the key to adventure as much as the cutting edge of that long blade was, so allowing spiritual files to be applied to the cold, hard edge of your life is the key to a fulfilling adventure in living for Christ.