Our church was very large and easy to get lost in. After church, our family always met on the second floor of one building. On one particular Sunday we were supposed to go out to eat with some couples, and everyone was going to meet at the same place. We all showed up at the appropriate time except my teenaged daughter, Angela.
She was about 13 and she wasn’t there. (At the time I didn’t realize she wouldn’t be there for the next six years.) We waited 10 minutes — still not there. Finally, people were getting antsy, and I was getting embarrassed.
One couple said, “We’ll go to the restaurant and save a place, because it’s going to get crowded.” Another couple said, “We know you don’t know the way to the restaurant, so we’ll stay and you can follow us.” I said, “Thank you for going and saving a table. Thank you for staying.” Meanwhile, even though I was acting so appreciative, I was getting angry.
Finally, 15 minutes late, Angela came be-bopping up, like teenagers do, and said, “Hey, Dad, what’s happening?”
At this point I was about boiling. Those of us who work on a church staff learn to develop the fine art of hollering with our mouths closed. I’m pretty good at that. I said, with my teeth clenched, “Angela, where have you been?” She said, “I’ve been in Sunday school.” “No you haven’t; you’re 15 minutes late. Where have you been for the last 15 minutes?”
“Daddy, calm down, I lost my shoes.” “You did WHAT?” “I lost my shoes.” “Where?” “I lost my shoes in Sunday school.” “How could you lose your shoes in Sunday school?”
She said, “Daddy, I’m going to tell you. It’s an all-girls class, and our Sunday shoes are uncomfortable, so we always take them off and put them in the corner, and after Sunday school we put them back on. Today the boys somehow snuck into our room during break time, stole the shoes, and took them down the hall. It took us 15 minutes to find our shoes.”
After she finished her story, I came out with one of those gems I like to call “parental stupid-isms.” They are the things parents say to kids that make no sense whatsoever but make the parents feel better. All parents do this. It’s like when you say to your kid, “If you fall out of that tree and break your leg, don’t come running to me.” I said, “Angela, don’t you ever take your shoes off again as long as you live.” It made no sense, but it did make me feel better.
Anyway, we got into the car and headed for the restaurant. The McCullochs were in front of us because I didn’t know the way. One of their kids went with us, and one of our kids went with them. The McCullochs were driving a gray Buick, and I was following them to the restaurant.
Everybody was laughing and having a good time — except Daddy. He was “wrought.” Angela, grrr, shoes, grrr, late, grrr; just grrr. All of a sudden, in the middle of everybody’s laughter, somebody said, “Did the McCullochs get a new car?” The McCulloch kid, in the back, jumped up and said, “Did we get a new car?” — like they might have traded it in during Sunday school. I started to look closely at the car ahead of us and then somebody said, “I think that’s a Cadillac.” And the McCulloch kid said, “Did we get a Cadillac?” And then I think my wife said, “I don’t think that’s the McCullochs’ car.” And the McCulloch kid said, “That’s not our car.”
Then the whole car was totally quiet. Everybody knew not to say a word or the guy driving might explode. But Breanne, who was only about 7 at the time and didn’t know any better, started laughing and said, “Isn’t this funny? Angela lost her shoes, but Daddy lost a whole car.”
Well, at that point everybody broke up laughing, and I pulled off the road because I didn’t know where I was going or whom I was following anyway. I turned to Angela and said, “I’m sorry, honey. I hollered at you and acted ugly. Will you forgive me?” She said, “Sure, Dad, we all make mistakes.”
All of us do make mistakes, don’t we? Why don’t we treat others’ mistakes as we would like our mistakes treated?