Messing up: Part 1
The pancakes I made for that breakfast were plain awful. I pride myself on making good breakfasts – a different menu for each of the six breakfasts I make every week.
“Opa, when are you going to make pancakes for us?” asked grandson Tobias a few days earlier. “I love your pancakes,” added granddaughter Matea. In my small Leamington based family I am rather famous for them. This is a rather small cheering section, I admit. But the grandkids ask for them every time they come visiting. For Tobias and Matea I still use gluten free Almond milk, though they are gradually growing out of that allergy. For the rest of us I use regular milk. Two bowls of batter are ready, both richly sprinkled with wild blueberries – blueberries I have handpicked on Sagamok First Nations land north of Massy, Ontario. These blueberries came at a high personal cost. In my eagerness to approach a loaded bush of blueberries I failed to notice the wasp nest on the rotting tree stump several meters away. Alas, four painful stings accompanied my hurried retreat. Those blueberries were very precious. And they were nicely colouring the batter in each of those two bowls.
The griddle was hot, ready for five pancakes at a time, two for the grandkids, three for their parents and Oma. They look “interesting”. There is a bit of a “thunk” when I turn them over. They don’t rise like they usually do. And they look a bit “splotchy”. I serve them. They eat them. Quietly. No “What great pancakes, Opa.” Glum silence. I make a few more. Same thing. Thunk. Silence.
Only later in the day does it finally occur to me what went wrong. While checking our egg supply I was surprised at how many there were still left. The lights went on. “I forgot the eggs”. I’ve made pancakes hundreds of times. How could I forget the eggs?
But why did that omission, small, really, in the larger scheme of things, bother me so much. Those gathered around the table still ate those heavy lunks of fried dough. No one complained – unless glum faces are complaint enough. Why not just laugh and move on? But it nags at me. I messed up. I forgot the eggs.
There is a thought here somewhere, perhaps a lesson to be learned. Maybe it was time that my grandkids too realized that grandparents also mess up sometimes. And for me? Well, messing up is nothing new to me, and almost inedible pancakes are among the smallest of my mess-ups. And maybe it’s okay that my pride was pricked and that I wasted my precious blueberries making pancakes that “thunked”. My grandkids don’t love me less for it.
Messing up: Part II
I was messed up. The church I was pastoring was messed up. We had come through a long process of discernment wounded and broken. All our careful planning, our rigorous processing, didn’t prevent our very human tendencies to try to win the battle whatever the cost. That cost was very high. No one won the battle. We felt broken. I felt broken. (The longer story is told in my book The Pastor-Congregation Duet published by Friesen Press, 2018).
God’s healing came as a surprise, and as a gift. Maybe God’s healing always comes as a surprize and gift. We didn’t deserve it. I didn’t deserve it. The healing wasn’t instant. It took a long time. But it was deep, and it was profound
Maybe this was also true in the New Testament churches – both the messing up and the healing. The church at Corinth was in constant conflict and turmoil. There were leadership battles, worship battles, social prestige battles (the rich flaunted their wealth, at, of all places, the communion table). How did that church even survive? How did our church even survive?
Paul keeps on naming the human and sinful reality of the church at Corinth, but also the love and grace of God. Paul, mind you, is also often in conflict with other early church leaders. He and Peter are angry with each other. He doesn’t trust Barnabas. Paul is also a wounded, and sinful, human leader – as we all are.
In our story in Toronto, church and pastor felt wounded, broken, discouraged – and maybe finally open to God’s grace-filled healing.
The one reality is that we humans do mess up. We mess up our relationships, including our family relationships. Is there any church that can claim never being messed up? We humans are really messing up our created world. Our political structures are in constant upheaval and mess. To be human is to mess up. To be human is also to deny our responsibility for the messes we make.
The other reality is that God is bigger than our messes. God does hold us accountable. The prophets of the Old Testament name this loudly. There is no soft pedaling our alienations – from each other and from our environment and from God. And yet our prophets, and our Scriptures, dare to claim that we humans were made “in the image of God”, that we are deeply loved by God, that God’s project with us humans is forgiveness, reconciliation, healing, restoration. God is at work in the messiness of our lives.
God’s healing did come as gift and surprise to me and to our church. The shock to me was whom God sent as messengers of that healing when I didn’t see it. I was greeting people after a difficult, intense, painful, emotional “lament” worship service where we cried out our brokenness before God. I felt exhausted, empty. Two first time guests became God’s messengers to me – to us. “A church that can be this honest, this transparent, this real, is one I want to be a part of,” they both said.
They were angels to me that morning.