Traditions are important.
They help us make sense of our community and the role we play - likely, the role we’ve been given. My brother and I had a juvenile game we would play in the car which became a tradition over time. The game didn’t have a name, but we used the words, “Fadiddle”, “Fadaddle” and “Fadoo!” to count the number of cars we saw at night with only one headlight.
The first car with a failed headlight represented “Fadiddle”, and the first person to see such a car would say the word aloud, kiss their hand and then touch the ceiling. There was always a great debate over the validity of the claim. If multiple people had witnessed the same single headlight in the darkness, discussion would ensue over the likelihood of it being a motorcycle or even the reflection of our own headlights on the cemetery headstones. But typically the “Fadiddle” claimant would assure us that the vehicle which had just passed, of course, was missing a headlight. So without much argument, the road trip would return to a peaceable endeavor with one person closer to the inevitable “punchline”.
Maybe a few days later, similar behavior followed for the second vehicle with only one headlight. The emphasis wasn’t so much on it being a second vehicle without a headlight, though. The same car could be witnessed multiple times in the same day, even. As long as someone else was in the car with you and the previous “trip” had sufficiently ended, then the same vehicle missing a headlight was a legitimate claim. To be clear, on a long trip, passing the same vehicle didn’t count. Even if you stopped for fuel and then re-encountered that same vehicle later on the road, it didn’t count. But, for instance, if on the way into town you passed a slow moving vehicle with a single, lonely headlight - and then on the return trip home that same desperate vehicle was still struggling along, you would have providentially earned both a “Fadiddle” and a “Fadaddle”. [We were young, so the game was self-centered…it was focused on us seeing the vehicle, not the actual existence of three unique one-headlight vehicles.]
We grew up in a small town, so there was often a dry spell after “Fadaddle”. Weeks could pass where we would entirely forget the score. And sometimes we would be in a vehicle with another person who wasn’t aware of the game - or the score. It was the responsibility of each game-player to advise the other players, in a friendly manner, “Hey, I got a Fadiddle the other day in the car with Drew…” so that there would be no surprises when the next missing headlight proffered a “Fadaddle” (#2, if you are counting).
Roads are longer in the country, with grassy fields lining both sides and small wooden, single-lane bridges not being uncommon obstacles. The nights are death quiet with stars clearly visible above the tree-line of the forest, especially on moonless nights. We forget ourselves on these long and winding roads. But after a long summer of mission trips and church camps, the third headlight-impaired vehicle finally comes dimly into view at the end of a dirt road. You see, this third vehicle not only represents “Fadoo”, but also the opportunity to punch your brother.
We were getting older, though, driving ourselves those days. And, alas, there is no one else in the car to appreciate the jubilation of the exclamation “FADOO!” It didn’t count. This bitter taste lingers in the back of your mouth. Shaking your head, a solemn promise is made, “I will find another…” The next few weeks are consumed by scouting the roads and parking lots, looking for parked vehicles with obviously broken headlights, even desperately considering busting out someone’s headlight just to end the game… Toilsome though it may be, a promise was made. And everyone else is searching for the last missing headlight, too. “I’m not alone”, you keep thinking to yourself.
The game is exhausting. Even short night-time trips require dedicated attention. But no other cars are on this winding road tonight. We are slowing down, approaching the stop at the four-way decision-point ahead of us. I’m looking both ways in the passenger seat, desperately looking for the hope of a far-off single headlight. And then it happens. From the driver seat, my brother’s arm, like a flash, swipes across my forehead with such force that I’m pushed back into the headrest from my bird-like perch on the front of the seat. I’m offended. I’m hurt. I’m surprised. But moreover, I’m indignant. There were no vehicles - and more importantly, none missing a headlight. There was no kissing of the hand, no one screamed “FADOO!”
“WHY DID YOU PUNCH ME IN THE FACE!?”, I asked with wounded pride.
My brother calmly answered, “The sign said ‘STOP AHEAD.”
We played a game that was supposed to be a fun, passing of the time. But we built rules and requirements around it. We argued about what counted and what didn’t. We spent years searching for the one-headlight vehicles that would qualify. And then one day, the entire game changed.
In a much less juvenile sense, Jesus also changed the game. But we keep trying to make up rules and play the old one.