Imagine that coming out of you in a public place as you share the word of God. Metaphorically speaking, this is what happened to me today.
How do you recover? Are you supposed to? Is the stink of what has exited your mouth in the form of careless words so thick and the image so repulsive that no one can ignore it?
Can God redeem and ransom such things?
Today I shared a message from Acts 1:8, specifically focusing on the Holy Spirit and who He longs to be in our lives. It was supposed to go something like this...
Imagine finally getting it – there’s Jesus in front of you, fully resurrected and having fully conquered eternal death on your behalf. What might that feel like?
Have you ever been so geeked? So excited? On an everyday level…
It’s when you’re done with your road test and written exam, head over to the camera at the DMV, and finally hold your driver’s license in all its glory – feeling completely ready and fully prepared to face the road.The first service went over fine. Yet in the second service, though, I got on a roll with the word "special." That last part went more like this...
It’s when you have that first kiss from that special someone and you float home on air, ready to call around to see which churches can get you in and marry you the next day.
It’s when you have that first special date with that special someone, have a special time, then have that special awkward moment that youIt was about this point that I realized what I'd said. Somehow the word "special" had triggered in me a Freudian slip that created a derogatory comment about kids with special needs. Immediately, I apologized up and down, several times stating how sorry I was for such a rash statement. I didn't know what to do... I wanted to stop preaching because I had allowed a momentary slip of the tongue to ruin all credibility I may have had with someone in the congregation.
have longed for to happen in a special way, causing you to lean in for that special kiss that makes you feel all nice and special as you dream of a special future and a special marriage with special kids... who go to school on the short bus... and then you have... a... special life... togeth...
Granted, many people laughed it off. Perhaps 80-90% of the people chuckled.
Me? I got sick. Emotionally, that is.
And so I leaned into the Holy Spirit and asked, "What do I do?" All I knew is that I needed to keep on preaching, and so I did. It took a bit of effort on my part to find a stride again, but eventually I was able to put the focus back on the Scriptures.
At the end of service, I was heading down to the area where we meet and pray with people only to be quickly caught by a gentleman who introduced himself to me. In a very appropriate yet firm manner, he shared with me how my comment wounded, offended, and soured him from ever attending our services again. He shared how he has a son with autism who is "one of the kids who rides the short bus to school" and couldn't believe I would be so insensitive to the diversity that a church needs to have towards loving all people.
I couldn't have agreed more.
I apologized several times to him, stating that I knew there was nothing I could do to erase what I'd said. In fact, I didn't even try to justify it... I just let it wreck me in the way it needed to. While he mentioned he'd tuned out my message after my comment, he received my apology and shared he would choose to forgive me. Before leaving, he cautioned that I should be cautioned to be careful of such haphazard comments in ministry - especially "if I hope to start a new church."
Again, I couldn't have agreed more.
And so I slipped backstage... out of sight... and wept. No, I didn't just weep - I broke down and collapsed into tears. I suddenly thought of every special needs child or family in the church and how insensitive I had been to them through seven words... "who rides the short bus to school."
I mean, where did that come from? That was in me somewhere, and I flippantly said it the other night, too. Why? That's not even the attitude I have in my heart - the last time I ever thought that way was in junior high when my buddies and I used to try to make sense out of kids who were different by belittling them with jokes.
What triggers such stuff? Do I need more quiet times? Am I watching too much Comedy Central? Seriously - no joke... is there something in my life that is feeding that?
As I made my way back out, I noticed a gal sitting down with one of the other pastors. I joined the conversation because I felt like I should, even though I could hardly concentrate. She shared how she was struggling to forgive herself for something that happened a couple of years ago. I don't usually do this, but I shared with her what had happened to me that morning and how I was on the same page with her. We each prayed to receive God's forgiveness over our stuff, including forgiving ourselves. Amazingly she thanked God in her prayer for my mistake that morning, thanking the Lord that I am human after all.
It's about an hour and fifteen minute drive for me from Greenville (where the church is) to Holland (where I currently live). I couldn't listen to the radio, so I turned it off and tried to make sense of the morning. As I drove I found my body becoming ill... my stomach churning acid while my heart beat as thick as ever. I was torn between allowing God to use this in my growth while fighting the attack of satan trying to mess with me.
When I got home, I could barely stand and began to mull over how my comments may have caused someone to not only tune out from me to even tune out God.
Honestly, I may have gotten in the way of someone's salvation today.
That wrecks me... and it should.
Tomorrow I'll move on, get a nice theological perspective, and realize I was awfully hard on myself today. But today... I want this to wreck me. As my father-in-law put it, "Grow... use this to grow." That's what I want to do - this may have offended a few people today, but if it offends me perhaps it can proactively become a part of my future ministry in a judo-turn-it-around kind of way that only God can redeem.
The Holy Spirit spoke to me today as I tried to speak about Him. First on stage, then afterwards, and even later as I felt urged to call up everyone in the church with special needs children and simply apologize yet again. Everyone was gracious... and thankful for the extra call.
Me? I'm still very broken over this... and very raw.
Thanks for letting me confess.
"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." (James 5:16a)