Sunday, March 29

When I'm Wrong

On Monday, the sun rose at seven a.m. On that first official day of my children's spring break I stole the early morning hours to go hiking with a friend.  This had been our habit, the way we spent our time together though the fall and winter, schedules and snows, had gotten in the way.

When the light peaked warmly through the trees we stepped out and began our catch-up as we maneuvered the hills around her home.  How was my research job?  How was her writing? We laughed and related over celebrating birthdays, her recent trip to Europe, and even discussed the open-wound challenges of our lives -- my place of ministry and her walk through cancer.

She told me the latest about her treatment and recovery and then I said that stupid thing -- that thing that assumed something I should never have assumed -- that her doctor surely gave her a vision for what her future would be like.  My friend stopped me with a profound and weighty head shake.  "No. She doesn't ever do that." And the solemnity pressed down on me all the way home.

I was wrong to infuse misguided optimism into that moment. When one is fighting a battle each day, we can't jump to an alternate reality, we have to fight for today with them.


In winter's middle the sun was setting on an endeavor we'd begun a year prior. Many dear friends had filled our home for weeks on end, dreaming together of building a church that would send a new expression of Jesus into the world. And as we neared that final push toward becoming a worshiping people we saw a breakdown beginning.

I compare it to singing in church next to someone who is tone-deaf; you continue singing knowing you're not exactly together in every way, but because the words and worship are the same it's enough.  While we couldn't quite put our finger on it, we knew we had all grown off-key and were politely allowing each other to sing anyway.

At that point we did a wrong thing.  We examined what we thought to be true and what would best fit the needs of the kingdom and calling and we decided to end our endeavor as church planters.  We hoped we could maintain the community.  We thought there would be a collective sigh of relief and gratitude.  But we misread the signs of what was happening around us.

We were wrong to assume such positive ends could come without a voiced struggle.  We spent weeks speaking apologies, listening to each person's now-expressed need, and trying to realign our perspective to a more accurate, however uncomfortable, truth. Each conversation revealed the different corners our wrongness had taken us and only that realization allowed the next right steps to surface.


There in midnight's darkness, our down comforter covering us safe, my mind scrutinized some details of our together-life and I bravely breathed out a question that I'd held back for years.  When he answered in that way that said, "I can only be honest with you," I stopped breathing and prayed in that urgent, grasping way for wisdom.

In every human interaction we have the opportunity to make things better or make things worse. I could initiate an unraveling of something long good or I could bind us together in trust. Having recently been wrong in these other ways, I knew that now was the time to listen and not assume.  Nothing was changing in that moment, I was just becoming aware that the reality I had imagined was simply not real.  I had been wrong.

In that moment I remembered a conversation wherein one friend asked "Why is anyone surprised to discover that pastors, politicians, writers and friends are flawed and mistake-laden people?" To which someone responded a deep truth, "because we'd rather trust in a person we can touch than a God we cannot."  I wonder, when I'm wrong, how much have I ceased to trust that loving God?


Years ago I watched a TED talk by Kathryn Schulz on "Being Wrong," in which she said, "The miracle of your mind isn't that you can see the world as it is. It's that you can see the world as it isn't." This is one of the reasons why we get things wrong. We see the world as we imagine it to be, knowing what it has been and what God is working to make it into. It's a beautiful facet of our minds, indeed, but we don't always get it right.

Another reason why I get things wrong is because of the way I define and live out love.  I simply say that love is thinking the best of someone.  In doing this I do two things: I assume their best intent and I imagine their best version.  In my opinion, my hiking friend's best version is a woman who is completely healed, my church's best intent was to love one another into a different version of community, my husband's best version is one that doesn't fall into temptation.  The way I choose to love looks through challenges and disappointments to something better that can come of it. It baffles me that loving in this way can be wrong, but it can.

As I've prepared Easter sermons for my clients this week I've had the chance to think about Peter. In Matthew 16 he got something so very right when he confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, only to be so very wrong ten chapters later when he said, "Though they all fall away, I will never!" After this, he denied Jesus three times and when the realization of his wrong act and angle occurred to him he wept bitterly.

I've been right there with Peter; the tears over my own mistakes, the pain my own denials can cause, the destined and tremendous change that comes along with repentance.

But Jesus had already given Peter a way of hope.  When he predicted Peter's denial in that tension filled, sorrowful, last supper He gave them all a glimpse of life after death, saying they'd all be together in Galilee.  Even though they'd desert him in all their various ways, he already intended to forgive them, to be with them in relationship and renewal. Nothing was too egregious, nothing was too big for grace.

When I'm wrong I've needed the grace given to me.  My hiking friend sent a sweet text the next day. Many from the church plant are still doing life with us. My husband still sleeps by my side because we believe that's what forgiveness looks like. Nothing is beyond grace. The only thing that gets in the way is us.

I heard Bob Goff ask at the IF:Gathering this year, "What is the next humblest version of you?"  This must be it. I've been wrong. I'll be wrong again, but it won't stop me from love.

Fallor ergo sum.

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