The motion, the quick grab of the hand, jerk of the body, and the bewildered look on the face of the little boy told a familiar story. I was visiting my parent’s church. I did not know anyone, so I had no names or stories to go with what I was witnessing. I had just come in a side door in my effort to take shelter from the rain. I was curious, what had the kid done? Did he have any idea? Was it all a façade, his last gasping effort to profess innocence even as he knew his mother had discovered his guilt?
The look on the young mother’s face said the facts were in and the judgment had been rendered. Whatever the boy might do now was not going to change the moments about to unfold.
Even as I turned the corner and lost sight of the scene, I could see the boy professing his innocence. His mother was not buying the story, but he was still trying.
I have been that boy on more occasions than I can remember. I have been caught, accused, and judged even as I professed my innocence. There have been incidents where I was innocent. In each case, there was a moment when events could have turned in one of several directions. The key was the willingness of those involved to have an open, candid, and fact based conversation.
In each situation, the elements were the same. First, there was an open expression of individual views. Something like, “There is no excuse for what’s happened today. We’re putting our city in serious danger.” (Acts 19.40) Second, there was a willingness from both sides to hear the other. Third, there were facts – from all perspectives.
Frequently I have seen the error of my ways. As I imagined the boy’s fate, I found myself laughing as I listened to a kind retelling of a less than glorious moment in my life. I know I did not always see it that way. I offered excuses then; now they seem pointless.