Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
November 1, 2009
Recollections reveal our lifelong need for maturity
Sharing recollections of past days is something most of us enjoy doing, especially as we get older. Our memories can trigger laughter – or pain – as we reflect on how dumb we once were. They can remind us of fun we once had or of embarrassing situations we once survived.
Sometimes we have fun recalling how foolish we were in younger days and how our attitudes have changed as we matured. For example one of the dumbest things my wife and I ever did was to get terribly sunburned on the first day of our honeymoon. There we were, all alone, ready to enjoy marital bliss, but our flesh was so cooked by Florida sunshine that we could hardly stand to touch each other! And we had no one to blame but ourselves.
My sweet wife, who in these days has difficulty walking, likes to recall how she was a tomboy growing up. She loved to climb in the Oak trees outside her home in Wetumpka. Harold, who lived next door, was the same age as Dean. She has told me for years how she and Harold enjoyed climbing in the trees together as young children.
This was the same Harold with whom I had fist fights at school during recess. Dean laughs about how, when Harold and I were fighting, she would yell, “Kill him, Harold!” He was her friend and neighbor and she was taking up for him.
Dean likes to tell that story as a way of refuting my claim that she asked me to marry her when we were in the second grade. We met at age six when we sat on the front row in Mrs. Oakley Melton’s first grade class in Wetumpka.
After high school Dean and I parted ways with our friend Harold. Word came that he had married and started a family. We saw him rarely in years to come, and then mostly at class reunions. But he did call Dean from time to time in inquire how she was doing. I thought nothing about it. After all they had grown up playing in trees together. And we had spent 12 years in school as friends, despite our fist fights in earlier days.
Years passed and one day Dean received a call with the news of Harold’s death. In tears she called me at the church office and said with obvious sadness, “Harold died.” The next part of this story is what I find hard to believe. Dean swears that I responded to her announcement of Harold’s death with these words, “Well, it is about time.”
I find that hard to believe because it defies the image I have of myself. I am too mature to have ever made such a callous remark. Surely I did not say that. That would have been completely out of character for the refined, dignified person that I am, the wise old pastor who always says the right thing.
But Dean has a good memory and she says I said it. So reluctantly I must own up to it. Thankfully she laughs about it today even though on that day it was not funny to her.
The bigger picture is that my comment about Harold’s death was not an isolated event. Painfully I can remember a long list of dumb comments I have made over a lifetime. The list is long enough to have earned me a Master’s Degree in dumbness.
There is some comfort in the thought that though I may not be the smartest guy in town, I am not as dumb as I used to be. But I have no room to boast because I am still capable of saying something stupid at the wrong time.
The remembrance of such blunders makes me keenly aware of two things: one, that life is impossible without forgiveness, and two, that our need for greater maturity never ceases.
It is worth noting that condemnation seldom facilitates personal growth. On the other hand, laughter does. As long as we can laugh at ourselves, and laugh with one another, we have the opportunity to grow and thus overcome some of our weaknesses.
So whenever one of your friends makes a dumb comment, remember to laugh. It may not be long before you will need the same mercy. + + +