Rod Barks

Messes are made one decision at a time

We finally have a Canadian who rivals all others in name recognition on the world-wide stage.

Googling our guy produces a staggering 33.7 million hits; this compared to Stephen Harper’s 3.7 million, David Suzuki’s 1.6 million or Wayne Gretzky’s 3.4 million.

The bad news is this man of the hour enjoys wearing women’s lingerie and recently “pleaded guilty to all 88 charges against him — including two counts of first-degree murder, two counts each of sexual assault and forcible confinement and 82 break-ins and attempted break-ins” (CBC News). His name: Colonel Russell Williams.

Mere mention sparks quick reaction; shock, disdain and above all else questions.

How could a person of such high position stoop so remarkably low? Perhaps my early years of forced child-labour (commonly called growing up on a farm), can produce some situational clarity.

One of my winter chores was cleaning the gutter that ran behind our old milk cow. Though christened “Ribbons” as a calf, she should have been named “Banker” — based upon her ability to make large deposits. I’d scoop the poop ‘till my arms ached, shoveling it into a decrepit wheelbarrow.

The sloshing brown mess would then be rolled to the back pasture and tipped in a heap. By spring those heaps had morphed into a mountain of muck. Shocked visitors would stare at the decaying caca and question, “How did you get this here?” The answer: one shovelful at a time.

Likewise, messes of William’s magnitude are not manufactured overnight, but rather, one thought at a time. Biblical author James observes: “Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires. These evil desires lead to evil actions, and evil actions lead to death.” (James 1:14, 15).

Did you notice that it all begins with evil desires; something humans are very familiar with. Like the proverbial moth drawn to the flame, we are frequently attracted to that which is deadly: sexual immorality, gossip, anger, unforgiveness, selfish ambition and…the list is endless. However, there is good news. We are under no obligation to entertain such thoughts. Though they show up at the door of our mind like uninvited guests, we don’t have to invite them in for tea. We can say “no”.

However, if we choose to welcome them, be pre-warned, such thoughts will lead to twisted action. Bad company does corrupt and if we hang with corrupt thoughts, they will affect the way we live. William’s sordid journey did not begin with a house break-in, but an entertained thought.

Williams was sentenced long before his court appearance — and he clutched his own gavel. Yes, thoughts led to action and the natural progression of wrong action is death. Oh I know our Canadian courts won’t call for execution, but the expression of death is multi-faceted.

The Colonel is experiencing the death of a distinguished career, bright future, friendships, self-esteem, financial security and perhaps family. This “living death” is hellishly harsh and a daily taste of eternity. Natural death would be preferable to most.

Google results proclaim an undeniable world-wide intrigue with our Canadian brand of evil. But sometimes I wonder if there’s a deeper drive behind the morbid interest; a subconscious and uncomfortable awareness of personal evils that lurk within, welcomed via thoughts, inching toward action and ultimate living-death.

Perhaps this self-awareness is the one redeeming factor behind the entire story, providing a vivid reminder that even mountains of manure are just fertilizer in disguise.

Rod Barks is a Saskatchewan pastor and can be reached at

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