“I was wrong.” As Mary said this, I tried not to look surprised, but I was. It’s not something she says very often, annoyingly because she isn’t often wrong.
I, on the other hand make mistakes as a hobby. Mistake is a word that definitely features in my dictionary, it comes right after spelling and just before grammar.
When we make mistakes, it’s tempting to hide the fact. I remember as a child we had a large glass coffee table. It was great for playing card games on, you dropped something and as you picked it up you could glance under the table at your brothers and sisters’ cards. Oh no, now they’ll know I cheated. What you couldn’t drop on it, we discovered, was anything heavy.
The sound of breaking glass is not a sound I enjoy. It brought back memories of when I was even younger, and I slammed a glass door in my sisters’ face when she was chasing after me. Why do children run with their arms outstretched? The scars on her arms are still there as a reminder of that unfortunate episode. The breaking coffee table was a scar waiting to happen. All of us children froze, this was the era when parents punished you for being naughty. Unlike today when you might get put in the naughty corner. We were not looking forward to dad coming home and seeing his expensive coffee table in pieces. At least mum was due home first. I will leave to your imagination his response. If you were born in the 1960’s you will understand.
School was always a place where I exercised my mistake muscle most. Primary school in particular was a training ground for error making. We had ink pots when I went to school. No, not quills, plastic pens to dip in them.
I went to school in Buckinghamshire, they didn’t believe in new-fangled things like biros, Mary’s school had those, her birth county was far ahead of mine. The fun thing about ink pots is that they have actual ink in them. One day a friend showed me an amazing trick. He turned the ink pot over in one swift movement without spilling any ink. I was so impressed, I decided to copy him. No, I have no idea what was happening in the class, I’m sure there was a lesson going on, the teacher was probably talking, you can’t expect me to remember everything when there are ink pots waiting to be turned over. I swiftly turned the pot over, but my hand couldn’t turn all the way 360 degrees, so the ink poured onto my desk. Why the teacher chose that moment to stop talking and look at me I don’t know. I do know that we still had the cane in our school, and I was very familiar with it. My bottom said hello to it again that day. Maybe that’s why I have such a soft bottom today, it’s like tenderising meat, it got pounded so much as a child. I later found out what I had done wrong with the ink pot trick. In order to turn the ink pot 360 degrees, you must start with your hand upside down, strained slightly ready to spring (see photo).
Never let it be said I don’t learn fast. There was no way I wanted to be caned again, I was feeling sorry for the headmasters’ arm. So, I was very good for a long time after that. It was not my fault what happened next, I know you’ve heard that before, but hear me out, I was innocent. We had a swimming pool at our school and in summer term it was open immediately after school for pupils to use. It was only small and positioned six feet outside the staff room so the staff could keep an ear out for problems with us kids, this was a 1970’s safety feature instead of lifeguards and for extra safety they put a hedge all around the pool, including between the staff room and pool. This was the days before health and safety went mad, you know the days when the odd child dying or getting injured was not seen as such a problem. Those halcyon days often mentioned with rose tinted glasses on social media when we used to do dangerous things and get hurt or killed. The days many want to return to, but those who were injured are happy have passed. I know we had fun; I’m just adding some balance.
Back to the swimming pool. One afternoon my mates and I were playing in the pool and I had a great idea for a game. Lifeguard and drowning children. What child doesn’t like drama. Every child in the pool was up for the game. I arranged two groups. One smaller group of lifeguards and everyone else to be in the pool screaming out that they were drowning. It was a warm summer afternoon; the staff room windows were open just 6 feet away over the hedge. You probably know where this is going.
As my mates started screaming “help, I’m drowning!” and the pretend lifeguards were shouting “you save that one, I’ll get the other.” Teachers started to run out of the staff room. I don’t think I had seen them move so fast. Fat teachers, thin teachers, large teachers, small teachers, the gym teacher, and the headmaster, they all came running red faced and panicked. As they rounded the hedge, they desperately looked around for the children to rescue. Instead they saw lots of surprised and happy children.
Isn’t it amazing how you can go from being really popular and looked up to by your mates, to the scapegoat? When the teachers had finally caught their breath and calmed down, they looked to apportion blame. Isn’t that always the way? Every finger of every child pointed at me. My bottom got another hammering. Oh well, more tenderising.
Do you find when you make mistakes you want to hide? Pretend it wasn’t you, or just gloss over it. In this day and age, we tend to act as if there are no such things as mistakes. Everything is just relative, shades of grey. There seems to be no right or wrong anymore. Yet we all know that’s not true. Perhaps all that’s happened is we’ve lost the courage of our convictions. It’s no surprise when we end up being led by liars and cheats if we refuse to draw a line in the sand and say, ‘lies are not acceptable’. If truth becomes a flexible commodity to be strained and tested by social media is it any wonder, we don’t recognise truth anymore. The idea of absolute truth has been refuted and abused. So, what are we left with?
I made and still make mistakes. The reason I know that is that I recognise there is such a thing as right and wrong. There is good and evil in this world. People do both. There is a God who loves us and unlike the headmaster, who caned me when I made mistakes, God loves me in spite of my mistakes. You see when I drop ink all over the desk of my life, God doesn’t shout at me or cane me. When I smash the glass table of my life, God isn’t cross with me. When I do stupid thoughtless things, that seem like fun to me, but are problems to others God doesn’t call me to his office in the sky and look sternly at me, preparing a metaphorical cane. No, God accepts me, mistakes, failings, stupidity and all. Then rather than leave me in a mess, he helps me change.
I can look back at laugh at my mistakes because I have a God who loves me. I can look at the grey uncertain world around me and know that whatever lies abound, there is absolute truth. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father (God) except through me.” People often say, ‘how can you be so upbeat and joyful in your situation?’ This is how. It’s because despite all my mistakes and faults, God loves me.
I will end where I began, Mary doesn’t make many mistakes. She made one big right choice when she chose to follow Jesus many years ago. She made another great choice when she took me to Church in 1981 and I began to follow Jesus. Don’t dismiss my faith as being OK for me but no good for you. No matter what mess your life is in, God loves you. No matter how much trouble you are in, God loves you. He is there to be found. There is a great free course that gives an opportunity to explore about Christianity with no strings. It runs all over the world, it’s called Alpha. Check out a local one at https://alpha.org
If you want to know more, check out a local Alpha course https://alpha.org
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