When we lived in Dallas, our family would always meet after church on the second floor of a certain building. On a particular Sunday, we were supposed to eat with several couples, and everybody had agreed to meet in that building. Everyone was there at the appropriate time except my teenage daughter, Angela. She had just turned thirteen, and she wasn't there (at the time, I didn't realize she wouldn't be "there" for the next six years).
We waited ten minutes ... still not there. Everyone was getting antsy, and I was getting embarrassed. One couple said, "We'll go to the restaurant and save a place, because it's going to get crowded." Another couple said, "We know you don't know the way to the restaurant, so we'll stay and you can follow us." I said, "Thank you for going and saving a table. Thank you for staying." Meanwhile, even as I was acting so appreciative, I was getting more embarrassed, and as the King James would say, I was "wroth."
Finally, fifteen minutes late, Angela came be-bopping up, like teenagers do, and said, "Hey Dad, what's happening?" At this point I was about ready to kill her. Those of us who work on a church staff learn to develop the fine art of hollering with our mouths closed. I'm pretty good at that. I said, with my teeth clenched, "Angela, where have you been?" She said, "I've been in Sunday school." "No you haven't, you're fifteen minutes late. Where have you been for the last fifteen minutes?" "Daddy, calm down. I lost my shoes." "You did WHAT?" "I lost my shoes." "Where?" "I lost my shoes in Sunday school." "How could you lose your shoes in Sunday school?"
She said, "Daddy, I'm gonna tell you. It's an all-girls class, and our Sunday shoes are uncomfortable, so we always take them off and put them in the corner, and after Sunday school we put them back on. Today, the boys somehow snuck in our room during break time, stole the shoes, and took them down the hall. It took us fifteen minutes to find our shoes."
After she finished her story, I came out with one of those gems I like to call "parental stupidisms." Those are things parents say to kids that make no sense whatsoever but make the parents feel better. All parents do this. It is like when you say to your kid, "If you fall out of that tree and break your leg, don't come running to me." I said, "Angela, don't you ever take your shoes off again as long as you live." It made no sense, but it made me feel better.
Anyway, we got into the car and headed for the restaurant. The McCullochs were in front of us because I didn't know the way. One of their kids went with us and one of our kids went with them. The McCullochs were driving in a gray Buick, and I was following them to the restaurant. Everybody was laughing and having a good time, except Daddy. He was "wroth." Angela, "grrr." Shoes, "grrr." Late, "grrr." Just plain, old, "grrr." All of a sudden, in the middle of everybody's laughter, somebody said, "Did the McCullochs get a new car?" The McCulloch kid, in the back, jumped up and said, "Did we get a new car?" ... like they might have traded it in during Sunday school. I started to really look at this car ahead and then somebody said, "I think that's a Cadillac." And the McCulloch kid said, "Did we get a Cadillac?" And then I think my wife said, "I ... er ... don't think that's the McCullochs' car." And the McCulloch kid said, "That's not our car!"
Then our whole car got totally quiet. Everybody knew not to say a word or the guy driving might kill them. But Breanne, my other daughter, was about seven at the time, and she didn't know any better. She started laughing and said, "Isn't this funny? Angela lost her shoes, but Daddy lost a whole car." Well, at that point everybody broke up laughing, and I pulled off the road, because I didn't know where I was going or who I was following anyway. I turned to Angela and said, "I'm sorry, Honey, I hollered at you and acted ugly. Will you forgive me?" She said, "Sure, Dad, we all make mistakes."
All of us DO make mistakes, don't we? Why don't we treat other's mistakes as we would like our mistakes treated? Hmm, sound familiar?
Charles Lowery is pastor of Hoffmantown Baptist Church, Albuquerque, N.M.