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The shame of it all!

When one’s own stupidity or inadequacy cuts like a knife

By Grantley Morris
When his wife was pregnant with their only child, John Wesley’s famous contemporary, George Whitefield, knew he had heard from God: it would be a boy and this son would become a great evangelist. Newspapers grabbed the story and mocked. Whitefield was unmoved. The whole world could laugh; time would vindicate him. Finally the baby was born. A boy. It died.


Doug Hunt, chief pilot for Wycliffe Bible Translators – dead. Dr Darlene Bee, brilliant linguist and Bible translator – dead. In all, seven mangled corpses lay strew amongst the aircraft wreckage. All because a missionary-mechanic neglected to tighten a nut.

‘The funeral was a ghastly ordeal,’ confessed the shattered mechanic. ‘The sight of those caskets lined up ... hit me like a blow to the stomach. I wanted nothing but to get out of there .... How could I face my friends? How could I face myself?’

Anyone who can keep going after that is not a negligent mechanic. He’s a spiritual giant.

‘Except for God’s grace,’ he later wrote, ‘I’d be somewhere cowering in a corner in guilt-ridden despair – the eighth fatality of that Aztec crash.’

‘It seems as though everything I do is wrong,’ cried the now world famous missionary of yesteryear, Gladys Aylward, in a letter from China. Great men and women of God often long to quit, but they wobble on. When they are hit, they bounce – like flat footballs usually, but enough to stay in the game. After a while they are pumped up again and their erratic zigzag course resumes that vaguely goalward trajectory that sends angelic cheer-leaders wild.


Believers squabble over whether miracles have ceased, but no one doubts that signs and blunders are with us still. The centuries have made Believers no brighter (see Bunglers Anonymous), nor any less treasured by heaven. My favorite is Dwight Moody. He hated his first name, pronounced Jerusalem in two syllables, and wrote without a speck of punctuation. Can you guess the words he was attempting to spell in the following: sucksead, beleave, shure, clurks, bead, hav, don, bimb bi, peter? [Answers] ‘I am getting over the difficulty,’ said middle-aged Moody about his spelling, ‘I am always sure of the first letter and the last ...’ Such shortcomings are endearing. To scorn them is to act like a thirteen year old despising childish behavior in his little sister – behavior that more mature people find adorable. Had we a massive intellect and love approaching that of our great King, we would not only discern the frailty of the even greatest earthly minds, we would probably feel as warmly about their foibles as we do about those of the cutest child.

Brilliant disaster

My invitations to speak are as common as leap years. I even pounced on the chance to speak at my father’s funeral.

I had on paper words with the power to comfort and challenge, and the Lord enabled me to deliver them without embarrassment. God’s so gracious. From an eternal viewpoint, however, saving face was inconsequential. Ultimately, nothing mattered, as long as Spirit-charged words entered needy hearts. It could easily have happened this way:

I arrive at the pulpit only to discover I have the wrong folder. In naked horror I bolt up the aisle to drive home to my notes, then remember my keys. I sheepishly return, groping over stunned mourners in a blind hunt. Keys in hand, I storm out again and drive off with blunder and lightning, side-swiping the hearse on the way.

Finally clutching my proper notes, I flee my mangled car and burst through the church, knocking a vase of flowers. In cold obedience to Murphy’s Law, the vase nose-dives, drenching the coffin and drowning my trousers. I stagger to the pulpit, terrorized by mind-freezing humiliation. Convulsed by a giddy whirl of sobs and stutters, I crash over words, slipping and slurring through a minefield of bloopers, until I close; an hysterical disaster.

Yet if those mashed, soggy words still fulfilled their intended mission, my blubbering disgrace would have been a howling success from eternity’s view.

I could have wanted to slither under the nearest rock. Heaven could have wanted to give a standing ovation.

We have no right to imagine we have failed unless heaven expressly reveals it to us.

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Not to be sold. © Copyright, 1997, Grantley Morris. Not to be copied in whole or in part without citing this entire paragraph. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings by Grantley Morris available free at the following internet site [Website no longer exists - MAC] Freely you have received, freely give.

Scripture quotations are from the New International Version © Copyright, 1978 by New York International Bible Society

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