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Stupid Things I Have Done

July 4, 2014

imageStupid.

What a profound word.

It is is one with which I am totally familiar.

The etymology of “stupid” reaches back to the Latin stupidus meaning literally “struck senseless.” It could justify why many of us say that someone did something so dumb “it was like they were smacked by a stupid stick.”

But, oh, I’m not here to point fingers at anyone else. When you hand out awards for stupidity, I’m one of the finalists. In fact, I believe I may have helped create some of the award categories … for that matter, I may have invented the idea for the whole Stupid Ceremony.  Dumb actions.  Idiotic statements.  Embarrassing gaffes.  How many are the times I’ve been lost in thought while mowing the lawn when a memory of one of my self-imposed moments of idiocy flashes before me, causing me to cringe and want to throw myself under the lawnmower? More than I want to count. I sit here with gritted teeth and bring some of those more classic moments to mind in no particular order:

Our little country church’s youth group set the scene for one of my bone-headed moments. We headed to Virginia for national youth conference, one of my first trips without the folks. I was a rural junior high teen staying in a hotel for the very first time and carrying hard-earned money to spend as well. Coming from a poverty-stricken home, this seemed to be a chance of a lifetime; I spent dollars at every turn, especially at fast food joints. I was eating like there was no tomorrow, and at any stop I bought food by the bags or boxes.  KFC was one stop that day; I bought a box of chicken.  McDonald’s was a later visit; I bought a bag of Big Macs.  Obviously I couldn’t eat everything, so in the hotel room I shoved all of the food into a drawer, intending to enjoy a snack now and again.  I had no idea that this stuff should be refrigerated.

Oh, I ate the food, all right.

I ate all of it for breakfast the next day.

Can you say “botulism?”  I know I set the all-church record for vomiting on that trip. I believe I threw up so hard that my hair changed colors.

College life brought about a number of situations.  I woke up late and ran to a class that fall, oblivious to the fact that I was wearing my sweater inside-out.  It was gleefully made known to me by some upperclassmen.  The next semester I stumbled into the  breakfast line, bleary-eyed and unaware that I forgot to wipe of my face after shaving.  I wore two Burma-Shave sideburns all through scrambled eggs and toast, in front of a packed dining hall.

Oh, then there was dating.  One of my first attempts at this was with a petite Southern belle whom I had asked for a lunch date.  So refined.  So dignified.  I wore a white tie to fit the occasion.  And when I pulled out her chair in seating her, she graciously thanked me.  I was so pleased I was unaware that as I leaned over to seat myself,  I let my white tie fall into my plate.   Better yet, it dipped into a bowl.

Of tomato soup.

I am not making this up.

She was most gracious, smiling away the faux pas.  But we never dated again.

The next year I made a call for a future formal occasion and requested the presence of one of my classmates Laura to accompany me to the gala festivities the following month.  To my delight, Laura agreed to go with me, so I scrawled her name on my dorm room calendar and went back to my studies.

The night of the formal, I walked along the campus to my meeting spot and bumped into Laura early.

“Hello, stranger,” she smiled.  I smiled back, and thought I would try some witty banter.  “Say,” I drawled.  “Don’t you have a date to the opera?”

“No, I don’t,” she replied coyly.

“Well,” I winked.  “You do now.”  She smiled and we walked leisurely down the sidewalk.

Right past our designated meeting spot.

Where I glanced over and nodded to some friends.

Including Laura.

No, not that Laura.  The other Laura.  The Laura I was supposed to be dating.

I forgot to write down the last name of the Laura I was dating.  I took the wrong Laura.  To the opera.  And left the other Laura standing open-mouthed and raging silently.

Oh, I heard about it later.   Brother, did I ever hear about it.  Even a personal face-to-face apology, a handwritten letter of regret, and two boxes of chocolates didn’t settle the steam for at least a semester.  I’m truly surprised she ever forgave me for that one.

Stupid?  I practically invented the word.

My ministry and professional life have been filled with mindless moments of pure bone-headedness that could fill a library, to wit:

As a youth pastor, I joyfully helped renovate the church music room by helping sledgehammer out a wall for expansion.  The wrong wall.

As a radio midnight talk-show host, I fell asleep on my shift.  While on a live broadcast.  In the middle of an interview.

As a minister, I was quoting a source and from the pulpit, in full emotion reciting the person’s words, and completely forgetting to edit out the profanity.  Yes, in front of a church auditorium, I cussed.

I attended a party with an Oriental theme.  You know, the kind where you take off your shoes?  I took mine off – and realized in front of a jammed room – that I was wearing two different color socks.

When I look back at My List of Idiocy, I am amazed that God could use such a misshapen vessel such as myself, yet I am encouraged when the Apostle Paul himself claims that “when I am weak, then I am strong.” James relates that God gives grace to the humble, not the proud. Paul notes in his second letter to the Corinthian church that if he is to brag about something, it is in his weaknesses. Well spoken!   It is humility that forces me not only to belittle the importance of my own talents and reputation, but also to rely more heavily on what the Father can do if I allow Him free reign.  And one other thing as well.

I learn.

With each mistake, I can hear and feel the grinding and carving going on;  a deep, imagedramatic etching within my memory to be wary that this does not happen again, whether in manners, in speech or whatever mode necessary along the path of life.  Those tablets of stone are then affixed to the walls of Zockoll’s continuing education. The School of Experience has classrooms and course schedules all through my mind, and I frequent them on a daily basis in order to learn how to prepare myself in given situations.

I can laugh now; these little vignettes of dumbness are a way of my life, and perhaps yours as well.  They remind me how fallable I am as I exist on this planet.  It’s a good reminder.  God is perfect; we are not.  Yet we are given the opportunity to grow…

We sing a meditative song in our assemblies – “Take Time to be Holy” –  a grand, deep-thinking verse, worthy of meditation.  Think about it:  the pursuit of this goal of being holy is to reflect, pause and respond to the loving leadership of the Heavenly Father.  He’s the goal of our daily quest in finding a peace the world cannot explain.  We run the pathway daily and joyfully.  Sometimes we stumble, but that’s okay, because we realize the Hands that lift us up are always there.  We look up and thank Him and draw closer because of His protection and kindness.

Even to those of us who are amazingly stupid.

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