Perhaps 55 years ago, I said: “Dad, I know about your successes, please share with me some of your failures.” He responded with “Son, I have tried to forget my failures”. I was surprised by his answer to the place where I remember the exchange. If he could have forgotten his failures, wonderful. But my guess is there were many failures, but remembering them would have been painful.
The Apostle Paul said, in a different context, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14. It seems much easier for me to press on than to forget some of the really inappropriate, really stupid things I have done. Though we seek to live In Partnership With God, we are not always wise! I share one of these painful remembrances, hoping it will be an encouragement to continue to press on, in spite of the fact that we have sometimes done really was in appropriate, perhaps really stupid! Experiences like the one I share have made it much easier for me to forgive, to hug someone who has just blown it, but really did not mean to!
Bev Shea, soloist for the Billy Graham team, came to Christ Church of Oak Brook on a beautiful, warm Sunday evening to sing hymns and gospel songs. He brought with him the team pianist, Ted Smith. (George Beverly Shea, in addition to singing at the Billy Graham Crusades all over the world, made many recordings.) Bev lived 15 minutes from the church, and many people in the area knew this quiet, gentle man. We first met in 1958 when I worked closely with the Graham team at the Washington, DC crusade. We became quite good friends. Because of my relationship with Bev, I was asked to lead the service: welcome him, probably have the congregation sing a few hymns, and then close the service with the benediction.
As the 1200 seat sanctuary filled quickly, the ushers guided people to the choir loft, and then started putting up chairs in the aisles. The large room was packed for this incredible evening of worship and celebration. Those present knew most of the music that Bev sang, and several times during the evening he would sing the verses of a hymn and then motion that we should sing the chorus with him. As the worship service moved towards conclusion, he sang very soft, very thought provoking, very worshipful music. When he finished, no one in the sanctuary moved…it was totally quiet.
Before I motioned for people to stand, I asked that everyone remain standing after the benediction while the ushers removed the chairs from the church aisles, which would take a few minutes. Very quietly everyone stood, I gave the benediction, and again, silence. I motioned for Ted to play something on the piano – and he nodded “no”.
O that I too would have been silent! But instead I told a humorous story about Bev. My story brought some smiles, but the worshipful mood of the evening was gone! I left the sanctuary in sadness.
The next morning the Senior Minister came into my office and asked what I had been thinking. I muttered something about seeking to share something of the heart of the man with the congregation. I am sure he could see that I was very aware of my poor judgment. Thankfully, no one else ever mentioned the incident.
Let’s face it; though we may seek to lives pleasing to the Lord, we still make mistakes, sometimes significant mistakes. May we never forget, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:13-14
Lord, may we remember that we are but dust – and though we may seek to live In Partnership With God, we will have moments of poor judgment.