The first (and second) thing(s) I ever wrote in church services…

Today is the 33rd anniversary of the first time I ever attended Sabbath services in the Church. But rather than wax poetic about it, I just want to share a quick observation.

Scruffy old notes with an inaccurate date

What you see on the left (or above, or wherever the website has put it) is literally the very first note I ever took during a Sabbath service in the Church of God. (I know the paper looks gross. The discoloration is due to some water damage back around 2008 or so.) And you’ll see there that the first thing I ever did was make a mistake. I tried to write the name of the sermonette fellow, then realized I should really start with the date. So the very first thing I ever did in my very first Sabbath service in the Church of God was… make a mistake.

But I caught it, right? Yay for me! So, on to writing the date. Now, this part only makes sense if you know a little quirk about 18-year-old me from back then. At that time, I had briefly adopted a more European manner of writing dates: Day-Month-Year, instead of the more common American approach of Month-Day-Year. (I thought it was more logical. Don’t get me started. It was a phase.) You need to know that for the next thing to make sense.

If you do the math and subtract 33 years from today, you find that my very first Sabbath service was February 4, 1989—or, as slightly-pretentious-me would have written it in my “day-first phase,” 4-2-89. Yet, I didn’t write that, did I? Look at it. Look at my shame! (I exaggerate…) I wrote 4-2-88. I corrected my first mistake by… making another mistake. And that one, I did not catch immediately. In fact, I doubt that I caught it until earlier this year when I came across these notes again because, I guarantee you, future Executive Editor me would have scratched that out and corrected it. You can even see through the paper to the following note’s date two weeks later, 2/18/89, with the correct year. (FWIW, I was home from college the Sabbath in between, breaking the news to my mom about my “new church.”)

So (finally), here’s the point: We make mistakes. And we think we know that—like when we tell someone, “Hey, I know I’m not perfect!” But often, we don’t really grasp the whole truth of such a self-summary. Sometimes, we won’t even see our imperfections until years later. In fact, sometimes we make our new mistake at the very same moment that we are trying to do the right thing—even in the middle of correcting a previous mistake! In my case, the first two things I ever did during Sabbath services were both mistakes, and while I caught one immediately, I only caught the other one decades later.

The question is, what do we do in the face of such knowledge and imperfections? It’s worth thinking about and talking to your parents and friends on your own. How do we respond to the fact of our prone-to-make-mistakes natures? For myself, I have a few reflections on what I hope concerning my own response to such an understanding, and I offer them here for your consideration. I hope I will (1) consider myself more humbly than my human nature tends to move all of us to do, (2) to give others the benefit of the doubt when they disagree with me and suggest I may be wrong, being willing to truly consider what they say instead of dismissing it (after all, they could be acting on a Proverbs 27:6 moment!), (3) not take myself too seriously, as if the world revolves around me and my own opinions, (4) to be that much more willing to live a life of self-examination, realizing that looking for mistakes in my own life is far more valuable than spending that time looking for mistakes in the lives of others, and (5) to be grateful for a relationship with God, where our Heavenly Father and His Son are willing to examine our hearts to show us what They see that we cannot and willing to offer all of us the opportunity to repent and be forgiven.