I just had to make one of the most embarrassing phone calls I think I've ever made.
Trust me, I've done some pretty embarrassing things in my time at Seacoast. Just a few examples:
- I asked a bride one time if she would agree to take her fiance as her "lawfully wedded wife"? She graciously declined, in front of a few dozen of her best friends, but said she would take him as her husband. (We got better at proof reading marriage ceremonies as a result.)
- I called a child by the wrong name as I was dedicating her to the Lord during a service one Sunday morning. Got the sex wrong too. (We now require large print, pink or blue name tags for parents and children in dedication ceremonies.)
- I temporarily lost a lady I was baptizing in the ocean when a fairly large wave crashed over us. (We now baptize in teams.)
- I used the words "dream", "wet", and "blanket" in a sentence during a message on faith. Not necessarily in that order. (Won't do that again.)
This one takes the cake. A little back story, first:
A couple of years ago, I invited a fairly well known guy to come to Seacoast. He was going to be in town for another event, so it worked out that he could speak at three of our weekend services. He's a good guy and he did a great job. As we were eating dinner, I asked him where he was staying, and found out we were keeping him at a "not so nice" hotel…as in "pay by the hour"…(not quite, but it seemed like it). I frantically called around trying to find another place, but every room in Charleston was booked because of other things going on in the city. Because of some miss communication, we hadn't booked a room in time.
After the last service, I handed him an envelope with a check in it…told him it was a small token of our appreciation for his ministering to us that weekend. I didn't realize how small it was. I never looked in the envelope.
Fast forward two years. In the midst of reviewing some financial information, one of our guys came to me yesterday and asked if I realized that we had basically "stiffed" a guest speaker two years prior. I said, "no way", and asked them to recheck. Sure enough, he was right. It was about the equivalent of going to Starbucks, ordering a coffee and a cookie, and leaving a quarter on the counter. "Thank you very much, have a nice day."
Still hoping we were wrong about the number, I immediately picked up the phone and called the speaker. "This is embarrassing", I said, "but I need to ask you about a check we gave you two years ago. Do you remember how much it was for?"
"Sure do", he replied.
"It wasn't _____, was it?", I asked, knowing that that amount would barely cover the gas to make the trip home.
"I believe that it was", he said.
I'm pretty sure he could hear me turning red thru the phone line.
I tried to explain, as best I could, that there had been a mistake somewhere, and we would do our best to make it right. He protested vigorously that everything was fine and we didn't need to concern ourselves with it. He's a nice guy…but I'm sure he had to wonder…for two years.
Some things I learned:
- Measure twice and cut once. That's a carpenter term for, you always have less egg on your face if you double check. I'll be checking the envelopes from now on.
- Everything is not as it seems. If I was this guy, I'd have been thinking all kinds of bad things about me and my motives over these last two years. In reality, it was a simple mistake, or series of mistakes. The worst we were guilty of was incompetence, with no malice intended. How many times have I jumped to conclusions about someone else's motives when their actions weren't what I thought they should be. I've gotten a fresh lesson in believing the best.
- Unlike other baked goods, humble pie tastes worse the fresher it is. I'll laugh about this later, but not yet. Give me some time. We've always prided ourselves on erring on the side of generosity at Seacoast. This time we just erred. Maybe swallowing a little pride occasionally is good for the soul.
What do you think?