I was driving home yesterday from the south of England and stopped at the service station for a short break. I ordered my usual coffee and a toasted tea cake, and sat down to read the newspaper and for a well earned rest and – an ideal way to relax! I was engrossed in the sports pages and reached out for my coffee without looking properly, and guess what? Yes, I knocked the cup flying, spilling the contents all over the table, down my right leg and shoe, and of course on the floor. I felt clumsy, foolish and embarrassed at such a public display of carelessness, and not a little annoyed with myself.
In my distress I looked to the young man who had served me for help, and he did not fail me. Without a word of rebuke or disdain he came over with a cloth for me to dry myself, and at the same time got down on his knees to wipe up my mess. He reassured me with his words: ‘You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last!’ Clearly he had encountered human frailty before. Even more graciously, he proceeded to make me a fresh cup of coffee, and for free. Far more than his careless customer deserved!
I arrived home to be reminded of a situation in my life where I had ‘spilled my coffee’ in a particular relationship where I had also acted carelessly and without sufficient thought. It’s so easy to do that, isn’t it? A thoughtless word, an ill-considered action, and suddenly we have a right mess! And we are left feeling foolish and embarrassed.
I am so grateful for another Young Man to whom I can turn in my distress, and who is ever willing to stoop down and clean up the mess of my folly and shame. I’m speaking about Jesus, of course, the One who in his mercy forgives all our iniquities and in his grace gives us blessing we don’t deserve or merit – a fresh cup of coffee, if you like!
And how amazing it is when we can call upon our brothers and sisters in Christ for mercy and forgiveness in those moments when we have offended, wounded and hurt them; when we can remember each other’s humanity and minister grace to one another, allowing love to provide a covering for our sin (1Peter 4:8, James 5:20). It is humbling and embarrassing to have to turn to another and say ‘Look what I’ve just done!’ but healing and releasing to hear them say, ‘It’s alright, I understand, I’ve done that myself before now!’
As I write this I’m feeling humbled and chastened, which is not a bad place to be sometimes.
‘Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ forgave you.’ (Ephesians 4:32)