Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Noah and the mud

FOR A BRIEF moment, I felt like a little kid again this past weekend, standing in my best clothes and dripping mud. At least, that’s where I went inside my mind when I goofed up at church.

Having misunderstood the worship leader’s instructions, I prematurely stepped forward to go up onto the platform to welcome people and make the announcements. Stuck before the end of the opening song, I was left in an awkward no-man’s land at the foot of the stage for what seemed like forever before I retreated.

I’ve made bigger mistakes in my life, but for some reason this one stuck with me, embarrassment wanting to ferment into shame. As I thought about it, I realized that was because the incident tapped into a long-ago, cringe-inducing event.

I was about four or five when we visited my grandparents at the seaside cafe and store they ran. I’d been dressed in my best for an outing later that day, ahead of which my sister and I were allowed to accompany the local “donkey boy” as he led the beach animals home to their stables.

When we came to a large puddle in the road, I went around to the other side, hoping to avoid getting squeezed by the donkeys. However, I succeeded in losing my footing and ended up face-down in the mud. Returning to my grandparents’ place in disarray, I feared getting scolded for having ruined my good threads, but what happened instead was even worse. All the adults cracked up at my mud-spattered appearance, and then lined me up to take photographs.

Ever since, I’ve been uncomfortable when left feeling exposed and held up to ridicule. Not that anyone was unkind at church on Sunday; they chuckled good-naturedly, and then laughed when I acknowledged my faux pas when I finally got up to speak. But something about it all left me tender for days.

I’m just thankful that our services are not live-streamed, so there’s no record of my mess-up out there to replay and relive. I can’t help wondering what it must be like to be one of those people whose crash-and-burn is forever accessible online—like that newbie television anchor, caught a few years ago having a profanity-laden meltdown on his first (and last) day in front of the camera.

You’ll notice I haven’t provided a link to that cringe-inducing footage, and I ask you not to go hunting for it, either. Instead, let’s follow the example of Noah’s sons Shem and Japheth, after their father got drunk on his home-brew.

The third son, Ham, saw the old man lying passed out and naked and went and told his brothers. But when informed about this, they didn’t go and gawk. In Genesis 9:23, we read, “Then Shem and Japheth took a garment and placed it across their shoulders, and walking backward, they covered their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned away so that they did not see their father’s nakedness.”

Though some folks in the church have used this verse as an excuse for not addressing sin in other people, it isn’t a prescription for ignoring stuff. Shem and Japheth went and dealt with the situation; they just chose not to rubberneck.

May we respond in the same way to those left uncovered, even by their own carelessness or waywardness. Rather than reaching for a camera, let’s find a towel.

Photo on Foter.com

2 Responses to “Noah and the mud”

  1. Terry Wilcox

    So helpful Andy – we work with young people coming out of custody where they find themselves after making mistakes or bad decisions. We are called to stand by them and identify with them – covering their shame with a cloak of acceptance. Great writing from the Butcher pen! Terry

    Sent whilst away from my desk



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