If you’re really absent-minded then you’re not worrying about whether the zipper is up, but whether there is one at all. Did I remember to put on pants this morning?
I’m not that bad, but I am incredibly absent-minded. As I told Alex Trebek during the contestant interview segment of my Jeopardy Tournament of Champions Semifinal, my kids made a lot of money when they were younger when I would forget where I put my wallet, or my keys, or my glasses. “I’ll give anybody a dollar who can find my keys,” I’d shout after I got tired of looking.
(Did you see what I did in that paragraph? At the same time I was being all self-deprecating about being absent-minded, I casually mentioned that I was smart enough not only to get on Jeopardy and win but to make it to the Tournament of Champions . . . and in the semi-finals no less. I’ll have to write a post sometime about pride’s persistent pull.)
Being absent-minded means that sometimes . . . well, more than sometimes, I make mistakes in church. The first time I ever assisted in worship, one of my jobs was to announce what hymns we were singing. I stood up after the sermon and said, “The sermon hymn today is Amazing Grace (or whatever), number 548.”
The organist, on the other side of the church, got up, looked at me, and said, “Dave, I really liked it too the first time we sang it. But let’s sing something else . . .” I had re-announced the Opening Hymn we’d already sung. Not too big a deal, but as it was my first time in any kind of “up front” role, it did cause me not just some embarrassment but a brief reconsideration of whether I was cut out for the pastoring stuff I was just getting into seminary to study.
I still make stupid mistakes. Like last Wednesday evening at Bible Study. I always start classes by asking for prayer requests. It seemed like more than half the 30 people there offered something. That’s great, but not realizing how long a list we’d have, I only wrote down the name of the person we were praying for figuring I’d remember the other stuff. I should never figure like that . . . sure enough, during the prayers, I fervently prayed, “And we lift up ‘Mary’s’ nephew ‘Charles’ for healing.”
The problem was that “Charles” was “Janet’s” nephew,not “Mary’s.” Again, not a huge deal but a pastor is supposed to be a good listener, especially about prayer requests.
When I apologized to “Janet” after the class, she said it wasn’t a problem. Then she added, “I like it when you make mistakes.”
I think that’s a compliment. I hope so, because she was the second person in the last couple of weeks who told me one of the things they liked about me as a pastor was that I made mistakes.
Maybe what they mean is that they appreciate a pastor being open about imperfection. My missteps leading worship are pretty obvious, but I also try to share my less conspicuous struggles and doubts in my sermons and teaching and counselling. Pretending to be a paragon of perfection would be exhausting.
Maybe not just pastors but Christians in general have put too much effort into hiding their flaws from the world. Could it be that we have turned some unChristians off, scared them away, made them feel unworthy, or otherwise weakened our witness by presenting Christianity as some kind of cosmetic surgery for the soul? Or worse, as only open to elite folks whose souls don’t need cosmetic surgery?
I’ll keep on doing my best as the absent-minded pastor.
Who won on Jeopardy.
And who (almost) always has to unzip his pants when he gets into the bathroom.