It snowed on Christmas day here in Birmingham. And this was a big deal around here – snow on Christmas day. But it was a Saturday and church was the next day. Now in many parts of the world a little bit of snow is no big deal for driving. But in Jefferson County, Alabama we are nothing but hills and mountains with no great strategy for sanding/salting bridges. There are no snow plows. And the snow tends to melt and turn to ice overnight. So, yes, we do freak out about snow but with good reason. It’s rare occurrence is only part of the reason.
So we had a decision to make – do we cancel church on Sunday morning or not? We meet on the very absolute top of Red Mountain which someone would have to pull a trailer full of equipment up. And on top of that there are dozens of steps from the parking lot to the building. So we decided to not meet.
Was it a good decision? Before I answer that question, let me tell you what was going on in my mind and get to the point of the post. My great fear as the only pastor on staff was making a false step. And even though the leadership was united on not meeting, I felt very responsible. And here’s the thing – I was really worried about being wrong. I didn’t want to wake up on Sunday morning and see that everything was fine and travel was easy and that we called it off when everyone could have made it. To put it simply, I was afraid of being wrong.
Actually being wrong isn’t really the problem, is it? I did not want to be seen as being wrong. No one, including myself, gets all that worked up over being wrong when no one notices. We don’t like being wrong, when everyone…anyone notices.
We want to put on the show of doing everything well and right. So we don’t take risks, we seek consensus and ignore our convictions. And this extends far beyond the kind of decision we had to make the other night. Decisions about jobs, living accommodations, strategies – you name it and we will find this fear showing up either before the decision is made or after and oftentimes both.
It’s idolatry at it’s finest. We set up in front of people an image of having everything under control and being virtually mistake free and we ask them to marvel at our being ‘right’. And we marvel at ourselves to the point of doing all we can to protect the image. We excuse. We debate. We lash out. We finagle. We argue. We malign. Whatever it takes to safeguard our right-ness we will do. God forbid we are found to be wrong by ourselves. Especially if you are a pastor.
Christmas night I had only one recourse. Believe. Believe in that Baby we had been celebrating all day long. Believe that he had come not as an example alone of righteousness (right-ness) but as the One who would deal with all my wrongs – the One whose tiny cries in the night had dealt the death blow to my need to be right. He alone would be right and he would be right for me and all who looked into his straw-strewn nursery with hope. And not the kind of hope hocked by a world agog with uncertainty. But hope that strips us of all our reason to fear and replaces it with an audacious belief that frees us to be wrong.
In a word, it was OK to be wrong. And only the good news of that day had put me in a position to see it.
Turns out we made a good decision and one many other churches in less difficult places to get to made also. And while I was thankful to God we had made the right decision, I was far more thankful for the freedom to act and be wrong.