In spite of all the wise and witty words about making mistakes, no one I know schedules mistake-making into the daily calendar. Most of us try to succeed in our endeavors. Well, I do. Whether it’s making a proposal to a potential client or applying polyurethane to a desk top (both recent activities), I want to get things right.
I don’t think I’m alone in wanting to look good. Even if I know I’m not completely confident or capable, I want other people to see me as such. Hmmm…a little pride getting in the way? Yup. Meet one of my character defects.
Last Sunday I made a mistake witnessed by the 210 parishioners at my church. I was substitute pianist for the worship service. Earlier in the week I had previewed the order of service, identified the hymns and service music, noted page numbers, and practiced. I had prepared. Everything was in order, and I would do this job well. Or so, I thought.
When it came time for the music that precedes the Gospel reading, I launched the “Alleluia” refrain of the appointed hymn. The congregation stood, as is customary, but remained silent. No one sang. I repeated the line to polite but awkward silence. Fr. Jason turned around, stepped to the piano and whispered, “The other one.”
“The other one?” I thought. “Oh no! There’s another tune for this hymn! Panic! Mistake! Uh-oh! And in front of everyone!” My prefrontal cortex shut down. My amygdala screamed, “Help! Problem!” I shuffled through pages and rifled the index to find the other tune.
Calm and unabashed, Fr. Jason declared, “We’ll sing a capella.” He began the “Alleluia” with resonance, and the congregation immediately joined in.
By the second verse, I located the correct tune, slipped into the hymn, and accompanied the last four verses and final “Alleluia.” The remainder of the worship service unfolded according to plan. I survived. No one got hurt.
Today, as I write this, Fr. Jason and I are probably the only people who remember my blunder. And I’m the only one who cares.
“Lighten up,” I remind myself. I wish I could make easy jokes and see the humor in the mundane muddling of daily life. Instead, I dive into feelings, self-doubt, and the serious side. “How does this look? What will they think? Did I do the right thing? Could I have done better?”
Notice where the emphasis is? On self. On ego. Nothing to be proud of. Al Anon taught me that ego is an acronym for edging God out.
God, in God’s infinite mercy, breathes into the spaces where I have tried to edge God out. God fills my life with people who recognize the humor and laugh wholeheartedly. They remind me to lighten up: my kids, my granddaughter (although she doesn’t yet know she helps), my sister, nephews, nieces, and friends.
God slips humorous scenes into the day: chickens waddling up the hill, their fluffy butts wagging side to side; frog eyes peeping out of the pond; the cow that gazes through my window with a “And just who are you?” look in her eyes; Jack, the farm dog and JJ the farm cat whose body language says, “Naps are the best!”
Just for today, a little lightening up (and maybe a nap?). Thanks be to God.