I Was Wrong: A Confession and Invitation

September 26th, 2013

I don't know why it is so hard to admit being wrong. The truth is, it always has been for me. One reason is that I don't easily let go of things I believe to be true (just ask my family!). This is especially the case with all things “Christian.” And this isn't always good.

What has it meant to me to be right? Everything.

What has it meant to me to admit wrong? Loss of everything.

Who wants to live their whole life bearing such a weight?!

I have been the greatest offender of not admitting wrong in the spiritual life. Historically I had to be right or at least confidently sound like I was right and then pursue affirmation that I was. In fact, right in order for me to feel alright. For this is the realm of TRUTH, right?

What this has looked like in ministry is the incessant reviewing of what I've said, taught, or preached to see if I was right, if what was shared was the TRUTH, or if I was leading people astray. It is over-studying, over-worrying, over-thinking, and over-explaining. It is too many restless nights and too many headaches and stomachaches to count (not to mention driving my husband crazy talking through each event, sermon, class, or conversation)! I've finally grown tired of the burden of trying to be a TRUTH-bearer. I want a burden that is light, the one Jesus talked about but I usually refuse to carry because I feel like I should shoulder a heavier one if I'm serious about TRUTH. I want to become like a little child again and accept my “little 't' truth,” trusting that the big one still exists, it's just not mine to carry. For this to happen an old burden must be released so a new way of being can be born. I need to admit wrong. And as a Christian, I need to admit theological wrong when necessary. “Be not afraid,” I imagine an angel whispering in my ear. I don't have many mentors in this area. It's not something I see too often (can't recall the last time, in fact). It actually doesn't seem to be allowed as a Christian leader. Perhaps we model ourselves after Paul a little too often (he tended to struggle with perfectionism). Maybe we need to look at Peter a little more. He's the one Jesus said he'd build his church on, the one Jesus was physically with and the one Jesus would not hesitate to point out in front of his friends when Peter was missing the point. The Bible lets us know that we human beings (Paul not excluded) have a tendency to miss the point even as we're trying to teach, preach, and live it!

I look back at some of the things I believed and preached, and I was wrong. Things like “helping” people choose Jesus by belittling other religions by making Christianity sound more rational (never-mind all the irrational parts of Christianity!). If I unnecessarily burdened or invited others to a smug salvation, I deeply apologize. Before poet Mary Oliver's writing begins in Winter Hours, she offers a page to Ywain the Knight of the Lion's words, “I will not knowingly tell you a single untruth.” This Knight of the Round Table's quote strikes a deep chord in me. It brings tears to my eyes. That is what I want to say to all of those who have looked to me for guidance. My intentions and heart were good, but sometimes I was wrong.

If I am to live differently, I need the curtain to be pulled back...scary, I know! But I no longer desire to be the Wizard of Oz staying behind my curtain. I'm tired of projecting a confident, all-knowing appearance while fretting and concocting elaborate explanations of Truth behind the curtain. Sure, there are days that staying behind the curtain seems preferable. But pulling it back offers a taste of what is real and that is worth it. I get to be a real human with a real relationship with God! I get to allow others to be real with their real relationships with God (relationships that can exist without me, imagine that!). There is freedom in experiencing being “on the way with Jesus and others” rather than pretending (or worse, believing!) I have arrived where Jesus is and it is up to me to graciously encourage others to catch up. There is freedom to question and admit there are theological issues, like particular views of atonement, that I am wrestling with at the moment (and in the future I'll probably need to apologize for proffering one or more of those!). Pulling back the curtain releases me from my privileged strangle-hold on absolute truth and frees me to trust the Person who is Truth. Now that, alone, is worth it to me.

So I want to publicly announce to those who look to me for guidance, “I will not knowingly tell you a single untruth.” In my own words, “I hope what I share/teach/preach is from God, but use your own discernment (no matter how confident I sound).”

I want people to be free to keep or let go of my words. I want them to hear my voice as a voice rather than the spokesperson for THE voice. I'm honored and want to be part of the messy, holy ministry of walking with people in their relationship with God on this leg of their journey. I love sharing what I've studied, experienced, and learned of recognizing and trusting God. But I want my sharing to help develop their discernment and stir their own passion to study, experience, and trust God. Over and over we'll discover (like the lion, scarecrow, tinman, and Dorothy) how the courage, brain, heart, or home they've been seeking has been there all along, within them, just as Jesus said it would be. We get to blow off the dust, dig into the muck, and discover the messy and beautiful truth together.

It's time to lay this “having to be right” and “fear of being wrong” burden down. I'm a human and I am wrong sometimes, even wrong about the things of and about God. Thank God, for grace and mercy! When I become aware that I am wrong, I hope I'll have the courage to admit it and the memory of how admitting wrong doesn't destroy me as a leader. It actually allows me to be a more truthful and truer one. After all, if you'll remember, it was when the curtain was pulled back that the wizard had the most to offer those who came seeking his help.

Ah, now that's a much lighter burden.

Questions to Consider:

  • How easy is it for you to admit you were wrong about what you've believed, preached, or taught?
  • When was the last time you recognized you were wrong?
  • What theological beliefs have you questioned or changed your mind about over the years?
  • If your curtain were to be pulled back (by you or others) what would be revealed? What would be the invitation?
comments powered by Disqus