We had a small family crisis this week. my 15-year old daughter is currently in a play – the last performance is this afternoon – and had to be at the theater in Annapolis by 5:30 Thursday evening. Before she left home, she had to do her makeup and hair. The makeup part was no problem, but her hair for this play requires curling with hot rollers. Unfortunately, it turned out that my wife Karen, who had been handling the hair rolling, couldn’t get home early from work on Thursday. My daughter hadn’t learned to do it herself, especially in the back. That left one option . . . me.
I was skeptical. It was something I’d never done before, and I’m certainly no expert on hairstyling (I am, after all, well, bald).
My daughter showed me a 5 minute tutorial on YouTube and sat down in a chair in the bathroom. The rollers were heated up; they were ready. Sometimes as a parent you just have to suck it up and do your best for your kids. I did my best. And it must not have been too bad because my daughter, who’s playing The Mayor in the play, was told it looked like Hillary Clinton’s hair (I think that’s a compliment!).
But I tell you what – those rollers are HOT. And if you touch them in the wrong place you get a good burn on your fingers. I did that quite a few times – I guess I’m happy that I burned myself more than I did my daughter. Once I really got hold of the hot part and without thinking, kind of went “Ow ow ow ow” and slapped my hands down. Unfortunately, my daughter’s back was right there where I slapped my hands.
“Hey!” She said. “You hit me!”
“I did not!” Now, let me be clear. I wasn’t lying. I was so focused on my burning fingers that I hadn’t even realized I’d slapped her back a couple of times.
She again insisted that I had hit her, and I stepped back and kind of replayed the last moments and realized . . . she was right.
There are times and situations where we are so preoccupied with ourselves that we don’t even realize we’ve messed up and done something that hurts someone else. That’s when we need someone to slap us upside the head – not literally – to help us realize where we need to apologize and do better.
When my daughter told me that I had hit her, this is the first thing I thought: Those rollers are HOT – it’s not my fault. And I’m doing HER a favor. How dare she complain about a little slap on the back. I DIDN’T MEAN TO, after all. And it wasn’t a big deal, was it? I hadn’t really hurt her.
But this is what I said after I went through that thought process (and maybe said one or two of those things – I don’t remember, you’ll have to ask my daughter): “I’m sorry. I’ll be more careful.”
It is our human nature to avoid dealing with our mistakes. When we fall short, we try to cover it up, to excuse our behavior.
It is our human nature to run away from saying we were wrong. It is hard to turn around – to make that 180 degree turn that is repentance.
We need help. And that help is not always pleasant because it forces us to look in the most painful place possible to find out why things are messed up:
God wants us to stop running away, away from our responsibility for our mistakes, away from our blaming and our justifying and our minimizing and our “at least I’m not as bad as those people.”
God wants us to look into the mirror and see our sinfulness not just so that we’ll behave better, though. Not even mostly. No, God wants us to honestly look in the mirror so that we will know how much we need a Savior, so that we will cling to the Cross because it is our only hope in the midst of our hopelessness on our own.
(This post is excerpted from last Sunday’s sermon on repentance, based on II Samuel 11:25-12:13, where David is confronted by the prophet Nathan and repents of the sins he committed in the Bathsheba affair.)