For all have sinned.” Romans 3:23a
Turns out this falling thing isn’t new. If you are a regular reader of Grits, you might remember that about once a year I decide to see if my body will bounce. Last year it was Indian Point Trail. I tripped over a root and before you could say, “shoot that thang” I was stretched out flat on my face. It was painful. Then a little over a month ago I hung my toe on the edge of my patio and did it all over again. And yes, I fell hard and yes, it hurt. In fact, my hand is still healing from that one.
So, the other day, I was thinking (I sometimes do that) and remembered another time and another fall and this one garnered me a new name. When I pastored another church in another town, we had a great guy named Bob who would take a bunch of us to the Smoky Mountains and hike to the top of Mount Le Conte. We did this for several years and I am pretty sure I made the trip each time. We would leave early and get to the mountains around mid-afternoon.
Bob was a pro at this hiking stuff, and he knew the importance of warming up. So that afternoon, the day before the big hike, we would take a warmup hike. I remember one time the warmup hike was the Chimneys and if you have ever done that one you know it isn’t that long but it is a killer. As I remember, the warmups made the real deal almost anti-climactic. And then, there was another time that I remember…well.
So, we got to the mountains and prepared for the warmup. This one, as I remember, wasn’t straight up…in fact it was kinda level but it did involve crossing a couple of boulder strewn creeks. And crossing one of those creeks gave me a new name. As we crossed, we carefully picked our way over and around the rocks…leaning on our hiking sticks and trying to stay dry. We did pretty good…I did pretty good…until I didn’t. Yup…you guessed it…down I went.
Gratefully, back then I bounced even better than I do now. That time I didn’t fall flat on my face, I didn’t fall on my side, I fell on my, uh, well, my bottom. It all happened in a split second, and I am sure if my pants hadn’t been double stitched, I would have split something else. Well, once everyone determined that I wasn’t mortally wounded, the laughter started. The sight of their fearless pastor laying, sitting catawampus—half in and half out the water—was too much to contain.
And then someone, who knows who, said it. “It” was my new name. They said, “Look there is “Chief Wounded Cheek.” Well, then everyone, and I mean everyone, started laughing again. Well, they helped me out and up and we continued our warmup hike but for the rest of the trip and several months later, I was “Chief Wounded Cheek.” Even to this day the memories make me smile because we had shared life together and laughed together.
There is one more thing that I so appreciated about that special group of friends, and friends like them through the years—they allowed me to be human. You see sometimes people like to put leaders on some sort of pedestal. The problem is that is a place they should never be because if and when they fall, well, sometimes it is unrecoverable. One of the best things you can do for a leader is love them, respect them, but allow them to be human. And what is true of leaders and pastors is true of husbands, wives, and yes, parents. Remember, we all walk on clay feet.
Well, I’m glad to report that Chief Wounded Cheek is still bouncing along and gratefully most of the time, most of the people allow me to be human. Paul, the guy who wrote a large portion of the New Testament, reminded us that everyone of us are sinners—you know, broken people. At one time or another, we have all messed up. The good news is that failure doesn’t have to be final. The other good news is if we are wise, we will learn when we fail. Someone said, “If you aren’t failing, you aren’t learning.” I like that. Oh, and the final good news is that when we fail, there is Someone standing by who says, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne