As is true of most all congregations, the little church I serve really treasures the children we have in our church family. We are a small congregation and we love having our young families with their children in worship. It just makes things feel more alive and vital to see those young faces and to hear the voices of the children. Most of the children go to the nursery after at a certain time in the service, but some of them stay throughout the service. Either way is fine with us.
We are blessed, at this time, to have several two year olds among us. They are comfortable with one another because they have been coming to church regularly since they were babies. In fact, they were all born fairly close to the same time and it was a great joy to see rows of pews with moms or dads holding infants.
These children also know each other well because some are cousins and a couple are “play date buddies.”
Now these two year olds love to come and sit on the step “up front,” ready for their time with the pastor. (That doesn’t mean they sit still through the entire time with the children, but we don’t care!) One comes with his binky in his mouth. Another brings her blanket. I love that they are so comfortable in the church that they just come, bringing the important things with them!
One morning, a few Sunday’s ago, the congregation was in that time where we say a corporate prayer of confession of sin and then we take a moment for silent, personal reflection before hearing the assurance of forgiveness.
We had finished our unison prayer and were in that quiet time when one of the two year olds said loudly “Uh oh!”
In just a few seconds his friend across the isle echoed that “Uh oh!”
Then we heard it a couple more times through the congregation, finally along with a few stifled giggles.
What a great opportunity that was for me, as pastor, to tell the congregation that they are forgiven for all the “uh oh’s” of their lives!
But I keep reflecting on that joyful morning and wondering more about the “uh oh’s” in our lives. Of course, there are so many ways that we sin. To me, sin is best defined as turning away from God, trying to “do it myself” as if I were God. And that kind of self-centeredness leads to greed and pride and hatefulness, among other sin-sick diseases, and if not checked soon, those can lead to great catastrophes sometimes.
There are so many little “uh oh’s in our lives that can build up until they become great big “uh oh’s” that keep us awake at night. Things that were said without thinking about how it comes across to the other person; turning someone’s problem around and making it about you, instead of focusing on the person you care about; innocently (or maybe not so much) sharing a confidence that you were told; speaking in a condescending manner to someone you love. Things you can’t really take back.
We can say we’re sorry and ask for forgiveness, and we can receive the sweet blessing of grace when forgiveness is given. But the thing that was said has already done its damage. And we can only hope that in time the memory of it will be less because of trust and love that we have worked to build back.
These little “uh oh’s” in our lives can build up until they rob us of sleep. We toss and turn and lament – “Uh oh! If only I hadn’t said this; if I just would have done this instead!”
Maybe our prayer should be that an “uh oh” warning sign would pop up in our minds BEFORE anything comes out of our mouths. We should just hear a huge, loud, booming “UH OH!” bonging away in our heads that tell us to keep shut that hole in our face where the river of words come spilling out all over the victim in front of us.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need this prayer:
Lord, grant that when I hear an “uh oh” from you, it is not after I’ve said something I wish I could take back. Make the “uh oh’s” come through loud and clear as a warning that I should be still and tread very carefully so that I don’t make the blundering “uh oh” that is so close to my lips. Amen.
I am a woman with many interests, yet most of them flow into what is my source of life, my very breath, the reason I do what I do. I am Called. That means, for me, I have experienced a call on my life to serve as a pastor to God’s people. In that calling I love to write, to speak, to lead, and to teach. My deepest desire is to pass on to others what I have experienced in my own journey of grace. I am human, and in that humanity I have known passion and joy, sin and disgrace. Yet, in God’s love I have known nothing but love and redirection and total grace.