12.31.2021 – Learning to Live Graciously with “Oops”

We know intuitively when it is an “oops” or something more.  Burning the toast is an “oops.” “Oops” won’t do for burning down the house.  Not getting the lab work done on time is an “oops.” Amputating the wrong limb is more than oops.  When the liturgist bungles a line from the Lord’s Prayer, that’s an “oops.”  When a preacher builds the sermon around denying the divinity of Christ, “oops” should not satisfy the Elders of the church.

Our world is not very tolerant of “oops.” When all of us are victims of one sort or another and ideological purity is demanded in every corner of our lives, “oops” become high crimes and misdemeanors, the treason trials begin, and the grand inquisitors expose the heretics among us.

Maybe I’ll make being more tolerant of “oops” a New Year’s resolution.

To be sure, treachery and heresy really do exist, and bad decisions sometimes have disastrous consequences. But not every political opponent is a traitor and not every differing view is heresy.  Not every inconvenience should be resolved with a lawsuit – or by a Twitter mob.

There is a new house going up across the street.  It’s close to being finished, and I think it is going to be a very nice house.  It’s a spec house – the builder has already listed it – and it looks like a potential buyer or two have already been by.  We’ll see who buys it and I wonder if they will pay full price.

But the new house across the street has an “oops.” I see it from my study window every day.  I must quit letting it bug me.

In the photo used in the header above, the image on the left has been used by the builder to market the new house. It is not the house across the street, but the same model built elsewhere.  The image on the right is the new house on our street.  Do you see the “oops?”

“Oops.” In our soon-to-be new neighbor’s house, the main roof of the house extends below the gable above the front door. That’s not the way it is supposed to be.  It is not the way it is in the other house of the same model.  The symmetry is all messed up.  (And it is not the way it is in the elevation posted on the builder’s website – yes, I have played forensic architect in trying to sniff out the treachery in this grave error).

But assuming the apparent mistake has not compromised the structural integrity of the new house, assuming the building inspector approves the house for human occupancy, it is just an “oops.”  The contractor and the roofer can do whatever they do when they need to sort out an “oops.”  And, who knows, maybe they will have to lower the price of the house just a bit, and the perfect family will be able to make the purchase and become wonderful friends and neighbors.

Yes, some ideologies are wicked and must be opposed. Some theologies are gravely errant and should be corrected. Some decisions lead to horrendous consequences and, when possible, we must contain the power of decision makers who make such decisions.

But sometimes it’s just “oops,” and I, for one, would do well to be just a bit more tolerant of “oops,” less offended by petty mistakes and ill-chosen words.

I hope the people who buy the new house across the street turn out to be good neighbors.  It will help me get over the “oops.”

The final “Observations” of the year. Happy New Year to all and thank you for taking time during the year to read these posts.  Thank you, especially, to those of you who have been kind enough to offer feedback now and again.

I begin the new year with the privilege of filling the pulpit at Saint Andrew EPC. I’ll preaching on Psalm 90, “O God Our Help in Ages Past, Our Hope for Years to Come,” in Isaac Watts’ beautiful paraphrase.  Should you so desire, you will be able to find the live feed or recording here.

Again, Happy New Year!