Have you ever made a gaffe? Literally, the word gaffe means: “a foolish error, especially one made in public.” I am not sure what constitutes public, but in my case I figure anytime I am talking to another person then I am in public. It is just part of my position. I may be wrong on that idea, but that is the way it seems to me most of the time. I would never survive as a politician because my thoughts and my speech simply aren’t as guarded as they need to be. I understand this truth on most days. I wish working in the public were easier. What compounds this issue for me is that I tend to care very deeply for the “public.” Most of the people I talk to in public are more than just strangers I pass by on the street. These are people for whom I have a deep interest and concern and I am always looking for ways to express my concern and interest. It is not a popularity thing or a recruiting thing or a numbers thing; it’s a lifestyle thing for me. It is the way I have chosen to live my life and it is a fulfillment of the calling and giftedness I have been given by God. People matter to me. You matter to me.
I enjoy writing this article for one of the same reasons I enjoy preaching a sermon: I get to spend time crafting my thoughts and feelings so that they are expressed in meaningful and genuine ways. If you know me, you have learned that I don’t always “craft” the best when I am talking “ad lib.” In fact, you could say I am a lot like our Vice President Joe Biden. I am a walking gaffe factory. I can keep people entertained and offended without much effort. I am doing so much better than I was 18 years ago when I started in ministry but I am still hard at work on this issue. It is a deeply personal issue for me and it hurts me to my core when I say things that aren’t thoughtful.
I used to think I grew up in a small town. I used to think I have worked and lived in other small towns. I used to think this until I lived in Earlham. I am continually learning a new way of life. The last three years have been an education for me and just about the time I think I have it figured out, I find another way to learn something new. I love living in Earlham. I do so by choice, not by assignment. I accept the concept that I am not only serving the Earlham Church of Christ, but I am also serving the Earlham community. I do so willingly and happily. I do not consider everyone in town a potential church member or convert but rather I consider them my neighbors. Please understand though, I would certainly be overjoyed if they decided to become a Christian and I would definitely be blessed if they decided to be a part of our Church. But also understand that I do not see people as numbers or givers or leaders or followers. I see people the same way I hope they see me: as a special and unique creation of God, as a human being, as a person. I love my neighbors. I love my community. I love my Church.
I love working and serving in ministry. There is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t question God’s choice on this issue. I am just a 41 year old kid that was literally raised in a bar by my Uncle and my Mother and whoever happened to be hanging out at the bar at the time. I am an imperfect person with much to learn but still with much to give. I will make a gaffe every now and then and once I get through stuffing all my shame back down, I will try to make things right. I would hope that you can forgive me the same as I forgive you, my neighbor. I do try hard to live by the very inspiring words that come from the Bible in Mark 12:
28One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 29“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”