When I was 16 years old I began my first job working at the local funeral home. I did everything from putting up tents, cutting grass, opening graves, working visitations and funerals, removals (in funeral home lingo this means picking up a deceased person’s body and bringing it back to the funeral home), cleaning, and general errands “as needed.” I worked after school each day, weekends, and full days during the summer. There was one particular day, a Saturday, when I had started work early in the morning by washing cars getting ready for two funerals. I worked both of the funerals, one that morning and one that afternoon, and the only thing on my mind was getting off that evening and a date I had made with our current Minister of Music.
We were finishing up at the cemetery when my boss told me that the family from the early funeral called and they wanted their potted plants delivered to their house that evening. I was tired, I was ready to leave, and I was ready to go out that night. I was not happy. It was already after five, but I made plans to deliver the flowers. I’m not sure how fast I drove to that house, but that I didn’t get a ticket is a miracle. I arrived at the house in Mt. Olive, threw the van in reverse, screeched to a halt in front of the carport, and began furiously unloading the plants. A man came out and spoke to me, I probably mumbled something back, not wanting to slow down. After everything was unloaded I jumped back in the van and sped away.
I didn’t think anything else about it, until the following week. When I got to work that afternoon my boss and his son, also a funeral director, asked to talk to me. They told me that the fellow from the house, the deceased person’s son, had called and was very upset. He said that “a teenage boy showed up and practically threw the flowers under his carport.” They asked me what happen, and they asked me if I was willing to call and talk to the gentleman who complained. Later that day I made the call. By that time (and even before that time) I knew that I had made a mistake. I had not behaved properly, and I knew that I was wrong. I was more concerned about that night’s date than that grieving family, and this came through in my behavior. On the phone I told the man that I was wrong, that I made a mistake, that I was in a hurry, but that I had no excuse. I was asked to make that call, but I was sincere. The man heard me well, and he forgave me. I know that my boss was looking for it to be made right so he wouldn’t lose a family’s business in the future, but for me I was taking responsibility for my actions.
It was just before midnight this past Thursday night and my family and I rode by that house on the way to visit my parents. They house looks the same, the carport is still there. As I thought about that day and that phone call it is a reminder to me that mistakes are a part of living. But mistakes can also be corrected and made right. That was not my first mistake, and it certainly was not my last. But for every mistake amends can be made.
Twelve step programs teach that it is important to “keep short lists” of wrongs that we have done. The wording states “…and when we were wrong we promptly admitted it.” Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t mean that we are perfect. It doesn’t mean that we don’t make mistakes. Sometimes we make big mistakes. But God forgives us, and we have the power to accept responsibility and set things right.
After the phone call that day I felt a little lighter than before. I knew that I had done everything I could do to make things right. I felt forgiven.