A Very Holey Wall
One day, I was looking at my dish drainboard and noticing the scales on it from the South Texas hard water. I pulled out the vinegar and poured it over the plastic drainboard, dissolving the build up of minerals, thinking about sin and forgiveness.
Sin is not always dramatic. At times, it is something quite small. The Greek word for sin, amartia, means to miss the mark. Sometimes, we miss the mark in our relationships – by a little or by a lot. And, sometimes, we miss by a little over and over and over again. This little misses can build up like the scales on my drainboard. They can put scales on our relationship. This can lead to hurt feelings over time and begin to make a wall between ourselves and others.
For instance, here is a small thing that can become a big hurt. I have had trouble calling people by the wrong name. Some days, every man I meet is Bill. Other days, they all seem to be Bobs. Once or twice is understandable – but what if your minister consistently called you the wrong name? And, that’s what I had done with one of the youth in my community. It was inexcusable and yet I repeated the mistake until I was so embarrassed that I was afraid to use a name at all.
I do not want my mistakes to make walls in my relationships with others. Using the wrong name may seem small, but such a thing could put a wall between me and that wonderful youth.
Humor can be the vinegar that cleans the air between people and punches holes in the walls that divide us. I decided to fine myself every time I called this youth by his brother’s name. Although I knew they were different people, my brain was either lazy or short-circuited.
I told the youth to keep track and I would pay him a dollar fine each time I called him by his brother’s name. To tell the truth, I was feeling smug that I had solved the problem. Between the embarrassment and the fear of losing money, I thought the only time I’d call him by the wrong name was when it was on purpose for laughs.
I needn’t have worried about working out a time to make a mistake. I did it again even while I was giving my best effort to get it right. Immediately, I realized the mistake. I pulled out a dollar and offered it to him. He did not want to take it. He was immediately forgiving. But I told him that making amends would help me. He smiled and shook his head. We laughed as I insisted. I think the other youth were jealous at that point and hoped I’d miss their names as well.
Have you had times when you’ve used a bit of humor to clear the air and make amends? Humor can be the vinegar of relationships removing those little scales. Use it when you miss the mark but be careful, it’s a powerful tool.
I recently heard an interview Krista Tippet had with the Lutheran minister, Nadia Bolz-Weber: Nadia Bolz-Weber on Seeing the Underside and Seeing God: Tattoos, Tradition, and Grace
Nadia was a stand-up comedian at one time and says she does not understand how a pastor can preach without humor. I loved this interview and hope that some of you will as well. Humor can not only remove the small scales, it can punch holes in those walls between us and others. It can allow us to take ourselves lightly.
My hope is that all our walls have holes and all our scales be washed away.
Hi Sonja! Good to “hear” your voice again – loved your post! …can’t wait to listen to the interview with Nadia Weber-Bolz. I love her sermons. Miss you still at lectionary.
I miss you, too, Mary, and my wonderful colleagues in the RGV. This was my introduction to Nadia Bolz-Weber. I liked her very very much. First, I heard her on a podcast in the car, then, went back and listened and watched the video. She inspired a portion of my subsequent sermon – both for the children and the adults.
Well said, Sonja! Interesting and mind stretching interview.
Loved this pastor. I really enjoyed it.