I tilted the paper cup as far as I could to get the last drops of the Earl Grey tea. Monday mornings I spend time reading, reflecting and praying at a local bakery café. One thing I like about this café, besides the free Wi-Fi, is that they serve hot tea that is not stale (bags are kept in airtight jars), comes in several flavors, and refills are free. All you have to do is politely ask the person behind the counter for some more hot water and a new freshly brewed cup of tea is yours for the making. Granted, it’s not as easy as walking up to a replicator, like Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek fame, tersely commanding, “Tea, Earl Grey, hot,” but usually it is painless. Except today.
The first mistake I made was to ask the girl behind the counter, “May I have a little more hot water?” I don’t know why I said, “little more.” I guess I was subconsciously trying to not be a bother. Well, she took me literally and gave me about an eighth of a cup of hot water. I then smiled and laughed and said, “I mean a whole cup.” She reluctantly filled the cup and handed it to me, gazing at me for my next move. As I reached for the airtight jar she snapped, “You need to pay for another bag.” Baffled, I respectfully stated that I thought there were free refills, pointing to the sign above our heads. Flustered, she mumbled something and quickly walked away.
Standing there, with the other patrons’ laser eyes focused on me, I hesitated. Am I allowed to have another tea bag? Am I stealing if I take a bag? I’ll pay for it, but she’s gone now. What do I do? Scanning the room for someone who looked like a manager, I walked to the back of the store and asked a group of three official looking employees if I was allowed to get another tea bag. The manager, a smartly dressed woman in her mid 20s, apologized to me and confirmed that, yes, there are free refills as the sign states. Relieved, more because I wasn’t an ignorant, greedy customer, than for the 95 cents I saved, I proceeded to get a bag and make my “Tea, Earl Grey, hot.” I couldn’t help but feel a kind of shame, like I was a pushy customer, but mostly I felt bad for the girl who scolded me. Was she in trouble now?
All this got me thinking about a message I gave a few months back entitled, “Wrong Does Not Equal Bad.” Most of our learning is done by trial and error. We are often more wrong, than right. That’s just the way it is. We aren’t born with perfect knowledge. We learn by the braille method. It’s called experience. God has made us this way and it’s good, although it doesn’t always feel good.
Being wrong doesn’t mean you’re bad. It means you are in error, nothing more. You lack experience. Welcome to humanity. It’s only the insecure that need to be right all the time. Imagine how it would have been if that girl would have simply said to me, “Oh, you’re right. I’m sorry,” or, “Oh, I’m not sure. Let me ask my manager.” We both would have walked away feeling good.
Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” He knew that we will often be wrong, which doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re bad.