One day a father said to his son, “Tom, bring me a board with some nails and a hammer.”  He wanted to teach his son a lesson about sin.

Tom brought the board, the nails, and the hammer.  The father said “Tom, I want you to remember each sin you’ve committed during the day.  Drive a nail into the board for each one of them.  Start on Monday morning and go till Saturday night.”  Tom readily agreed to do just as his father told him.  He thought of what he’d done wrong each night and drove a nail into the board for each of them.

On Saturday evening he brought the board to his father.  There were many nails.  Tom’s father asked him what the various nails stood for.  One was for laziness, another for disobedience, one for lust, another for being angry. 

Now said the father, “I want you to ask the Lord to help you to overcome those evil habits and take away your sins.  Each time he helps you resist and overcome evil, I want you to pull out a nail.  Show me when you’ve pulled most of them out.”

Tom asked the Lord to help and strengthen him against evil.  During the next few weeks, he was able to pull out a number of the nails.  When most of them were pulled out, he was glad to finally bring the board to his father to show him.

The father looked at the board.  He said, “Tom, do you see that the nails are out, but the marks still remain in the board?  Sin and evil habits are like that.  There are many youthful evils that leave a mark on our characters all our life, even if we have been forgiven them and have forsaken them.  Perhaps there are only memories that remain with us, but they do leave a scar upon our souls.” 

(Adapted from R. Cameron-Smith, The Chief’s Daughter Abducted and Forty-two Other Stories)