“Always think you might be wrong.” Years ago I heard a speaker, I believe it was a professor named Murray Haar, remark he had these words posted on his office door. These many years later I still come back to these words. I remind myself of these words when I engage in discussions with those with whom I disagree. I remind myself of these words when I am frustrated with the church, with people of faith...with God.
I recognize this sentiment isn’t always expressed in what I say, particularly on this blog. I feel passionately about my belief in the priority of social justice, about my beliefs regarding Jesus, my beliefs about the errors in the ways of the church. This passion often sounds like criticism or maybe even arrogance. In my mind, rather than complaining, I like to think I am being a voice for others who are dissatisfied. I feel lonely, sometimes, in my beliefs and I wonder if there are others who feel similarly. So, I complain, thinking maybe someone else might feel less lonely. I complain hoping one of us might find a way to make a step forward into hope-filled service. But, I do so while also striving always to remember I might be wrong.
I think faith is best held gently like this. When we hold too tightly we shape our faith into something else. More akin to stubbornness, perhaps.
Sometimes when we forget we might be wrong we fear questions or become angry at those who believe differently. Sometimes we forget where our freedoms end and another’s rights begin.
Or sometimes we begin to think we are the ones who have something to offer and others are merely to be invited to partake. We close ourselves off from learning, from openness, from true and honest relationships.
I try to hold gently. Yet there is so much at stake: my sense of purpose, my sense of hope, my children’s future. Sometimes I, somewhat arrogantly, think there are even issues at stake beyond my little world. So, sometimes I get angry. Sometimes I complain.
I remember a moment of clarity following the death of a loved one. I thought about all the times I had worried over disagreements we had on issues of faith. It all suddenly seemed ridiculous. I thought to myself, “Good grief, he was just trying to figure things out, just like we all are.” And in that moment it seemed so clear a loving God could not condemn people for their stumbling searches for truth, no matter how wrong they might be. After all, we are all wrong. None of us is right about everything. No one has a clear and total picture of God and truth and purpose. Perhaps another call to humility, compassion and understanding could be phrased this way: “Always remember, we are all wrong. Including me.”
I will try to be better at communicating humility and holding my own beliefs gently. I hope others will do the same and we will all be understanding of one another when we don’t.
I know I might be wrong.
Except on important matters like the direction a roll of toilet paper should be hung. I'm right about that one.