Fifty years ago, I was the manager of a country grain elevator in a small Saskatchewan town. It was a very small town, the only businesses were two grain elevators, two service stations, and a small building containing the town’s café, general store and post office.
Bill Alcock, an eighty year old retired farmer, lived on the east side of town. He drove a Mercury Comet with a standard shift and was stone deaf. Around ten o’clock every morning I would hear a loud roar as old Bill drove his Comet down the street by the elevators, making the four block trip to get his mail. The car moved at a very sedate speed as Bill held the gas pedal almost to the floor and the clutch at about the same position.
Bill never could figure out why the clutch in his car needed replacing so often. It was no great mystery to the rest of us who witnessed his daily parade to and from the corner store and could actually hear the roar of the engine.
The dictionary defines temperance as self-control, or self-restraint. Would that mean something like Bill’s style of driving? Am I temperate if I maintain a calm and mild outward demeanour while there is fire glinting from my eyes and wisps of smoke curling from my ears? I’m afraid that I would be able to maintain that mild outward demeanour for only so long before my self-restraint snapped and the fire burst from my mouth to singe the hair and eyebrows of whoever had got me so fired up.
Wait a minute. Let’s step back and consider what is happening here. Is it really the other person who is stoking that fire within me? Or am I doing it myself? Logic tells me that the other person is responsible for the things he does and says; the way I react is entirely my own responsibility.
There may be people who are naturally endowed with a nature that does not get fired up when challenged by people or circumstances. I am not one of them – not by nature at least. If I am now able to face challenging situations without danger of explosion, all the credit must go to the Holy Spirit.
If I now appear to be a person who is moderate and temperate (and I hope I do), it is due to the moderating and tempering influence of the Holy Spirit on my inner thoughts and feelings, not to any innate gentleness in my nature.