I tilted the paper cup as far as I could to get the last drops of the Earl Grey tea. I had been reading an article by Blair Adams entitled, Two Powers, Two Kingdoms, Two Worlds at the local Panera Bread. Monday mornings I spend reading, reflecting and praying, usually at Panera. One thing I like about Panera, besides the free Wi-Fi, is that they serve hot tea that is not stale (bags are kept in airtight jars), comes in several flavors, and refills are free. All you have to do it politely ask the person behind the counter for some more hot water and a new freshly brewed cup of tea is yours for the making. Granted, it’s not as easy as walking up to a replicator, like Jean-Luc Picard, and tersely commanding, “Tea, Earl Grey, hot,” but usually it is painless. Except today.
The first mistake I made was to ask the girl behind the counter, “May I have a little more hot water?” I don’t know why I said, “little more.” I guess I was subconsciously trying to not be a bother. Well, she took me literally and gave me about an eighth of a cup of hot water. I then smiled and laughed and said, “I mean a whole cup.” She reluctantly filled the cup and handed it to me, gazing at me for my next move. As I reached for the airtight jar she snapped, “You need to pay for another bag.” Baffled, I innocently, but respectfully, stated that I thought there were free refills, pointing to the sign above our heads. Flustered, she mumbled something about that applying to the water, and then she quickly turned and walked away vexed.
Standing there, with the other patrons’ laser eyes focussed on me, I hesitated. Am I allowed to use another tea bag? Am I stealing if I take a bag? I’ll pay for it, but she’s gone now. What do I do? Scanning the room for someone who looked like a manager, I walked to the back of the store and asked a group of three official looking employees if I was allowed to get another tea bag. The manager, a smartly dressed woman in her mid 20s, apologized to me and confirmed that, yes, there are free refills for tea as the sign states. Relieved, more because I wasn’t an ignorant, greedy customer, than for the 95 cents I saved, I proceeded to get my bag and make my “Tea, Earl Grey, hot.” I couldn’t help but feel a kind of shame, like I was a pushy demanding customer, but mostly I felt bad for the girl who scolded me. Perhaps, she was now feeling like she made a big blunder, ruining her raise prospects.
All this got me thinking about a message I gave a few months back entitled, “Wrong Does Not Equal Bad.” The fact is that most of our learning is done by trial and error. We will throw a lot of bad pitches before we learn to throw good ones. We are often more wrong, than right. That’s just the way it is. We aren’t born with perfect knowledge. We learn by the braille method. It’s called experience. God has made us this way and it’s good. It doesn’t always feel good, but it is good.
The thing that blocks us, however, is our pride. We think that unless we perform flawlessly we will not be accepted. The truth is that humility is more attractive than pride. Someone who is at peace with themselves and does not need to defend their every word or action, but is willing to be corrected and admit their mistakes, is a great person indeed. It’s only the insecure that need to be right all the time.
Being wrong doesn’t mean you’re bad. It means you are in error, nothing more. You lack experience. Welcome to humanity. “For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” (Psalm 103:14). Imagine how it would have been if that girl would have simply said to me, “Oh, you’re right. I’m sorry,” or, “Oh, I’m not sure. Let me ask my manager.” We both would have walked away feeling good.
Jesus told us that we must operate on a gracious frequency. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,” He taught us to pray. He knew that we will often be wrong, which doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re bad.