Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn
November 1, 2009
Recollections reveal our lifelong need for
Sharing recollections of past days is something most of us
enjoy doing, especially as we get older. Our memories can trigger laughter – or
pain – as we reflect on how dumb we once were. They can remind us of fun we once had or of
embarrassing situations we once survived.
Sometimes we have fun recalling how foolish we were in
younger days and how our attitudes have changed as we matured. For example one
of the dumbest things my wife and I ever did was to get terribly sunburned on
the first day of our honeymoon. There we were, all alone, ready to enjoy
marital bliss, but our flesh was so cooked by Florida sunshine that we could
hardly stand to touch each other! And we had no one to blame but ourselves.
My sweet wife, who in these days has difficulty walking,
likes to recall how she was a tomboy growing up. She loved to climb in the Oak
trees outside her home in Wetumpka. Harold, who lived next door, was the same
age as Dean. She has told me for years how she and Harold enjoyed climbing in
the trees together as young children.
This was the same Harold with whom I had fist fights at
school during recess. Dean laughs about how, when Harold and I were fighting,
she would yell, “Kill him, Harold!” He was her friend and neighbor and she was
taking up for him.
Dean likes to tell that story as a way of refuting my claim
that she asked me to marry her when we were in the second grade. We met at age
six when we sat on the front row in Mrs. Oakley
Melton’s first grade class in Wetumpka.
After high school Dean and I parted ways with our friend
Harold. Word came that he had married and started a family. We saw him rarely
in years to come, and then mostly at class reunions. But he did call Dean from
time to time in inquire how she was doing. I thought nothing about it. After
all they had grown up playing in trees together. And we had spent 12 years in
school as friends, despite our fist fights in earlier days.
Years passed and one day Dean received a call with the news
of Harold’s death. In tears she called me at the church office and said with
obvious sadness, “Harold died.” The next part of this story is what I find hard
to believe. Dean swears that I responded to her announcement of Harold’s death
with these words, “Well, it is about time.”
I find that hard to believe because it defies the image I
have of myself. I am too mature to have
ever made such a callous remark. Surely I did not say that. That would have
been completely out of character for the refined, dignified person that I am,
the wise old pastor who always says the right thing.
But Dean has a good memory and she says I said it. So
reluctantly I must own up to it. Thankfully she laughs about it today even
though on that day it was not funny to her.
The bigger picture is that my comment about Harold’s death
was not an isolated event. Painfully I can remember a long list of dumb
comments I have made over a lifetime. The list is long enough to have earned me
a Master’s Degree in dumbness.
is some comfort in the thought that though I may not be the smartest guy in
town, I am not as dumb as I used to be. But I have no room to boast because I
am still capable of saying something stupid at the wrong time.
remembrance of such blunders makes me keenly aware of two things: one, that
life is impossible without forgiveness, and two, that our need for greater
maturity never ceases.
is worth noting that condemnation seldom facilitates personal growth. On the
other hand, laughter does. As long as we can laugh at ourselves, and laugh with
one another, we have the opportunity to grow and thus overcome some of our
whenever one of your friends makes a dumb comment, remember to laugh. It may
not be long before you will need the same mercy. + + +