Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Do I Have to Confess My Goofy Mistakes?

I often confuse my silly errors with sins, as if accidentally breaking a glass or throwing away your child's artwork is strictly forbidden in the Ten Commandments. It just always seems to me that saints would be smart enough not to do dumb things. If you're really connected with God and yourself, then you wouldn't drive into the garage with the car hatch open.

This is the problem with studying good people from long ago. We hear about their good deeds and perhaps about their sinful lives before they found faith, but we never get a sense if they were accident-prone, forgetful or clumsy. Did Noah have to turn the ark around because he forgot to load a few animals? Is St. Anthony the patron saint of lost items because he could never find his Bible? Did Martin Luther accidentally put a huge hole in the church door while trying to nail his 95 Theses? I would love to know if Jesus ever ruined a perfectly good chair or table that he was building.

Perhaps the reason we don't know these things is because they don't matter. Clumsy does not equal sinful. Being absent-minded does not mean that you're also mean-spirited, greedy or distrustful. You can do good things while doing a few goofy things at the same time!

I tried to remember this last evening when I basically ruined a game that my husband had since he was ten years old. It is a manual tabletop basketball game. You push down on little levers to release a ping pong-like ball from various holes. The goal is to get the ball into a little mesh net attached to a think wire resembling a hoop.

My son lost the ping pong ball, and, I, wanting to be helpful, searched the house for a replacement. I returned with a small bouncy ball, which I wasn't sure would work but suggested he give it a try. "It works okay," he replied, and started to play his game. I went back to cleaning the kitchen.

Ten minutes later, my husband gasped in only a way that could mean something was broken. "What are you doing?" he yelled to Dominic. "You can't use that heavy ball with this game!" The relatively hefty bouncy ball had pulled the frail wire hoop out of its holes.

I ran into the TV room to find my son near tears. Disappointing his father hurts him more than just about anything else. "It wasn't his fault," I blurted. "I gave him the bouncy ball. It's my fault." Now the blame had been shifted to the right person, but it didn't stop my husband from being angry or my son from being sad. Both went to bed unhappy last night.

I was left feeling less than adequate. Perhaps if I had stopped to think things through for a few minutes, I would have suggested that Dominic ask his father what he should do. My goal was to help. Obviously, it was a goal unfulfilled.

I felt guilty, but I was determined not to feel like a bad person. It's hard, though. You wonder if you're too distracted with day-to-day issues and too burdened with self-imposed deadlines to think clearly and wisely. Is my need to help everyone as much as I can actually keeping me from doing things the right way?

In hindsight, I think we can determine that I'm not a bad person. We can also conclude that I don't fully understand why heavy objects should not be thrown at thin, delicate objects! It hurts to make mistakes, but it should hurt more to offend God. This is something I need to keep in mind.
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