When I said it, I knew my attempt at humor did not work. Oops! Instead of a laugh, I could see the slightly furrowed brow and a hint of pain. Oops! What I had intended did not work. In fact, it turned into a mini-disaster. There was no need of an ambulance or first-aid. There was no bleeding. But I had caused a slight hurt. Oops!
There was no physical pain. There was no malice on my part. In fact, I meant well. I was trying to cultivate a relationship. Instead, I damaged it. Oops! There are all sorts of words that describe these kinds of situations: unintended consequences, hurt, destruction. I rather like the innocuous little word, oops. It must be one of the earlier words we learn and use. Surely it is pre-kindergarten.
Oops! It is a vibrant word. It is only one syllable, but it is a long syllable. If you say, oops, you can drag out the sound for a long time. Maybe if I write it “ooooooops,” you get the sense for how long a syllable can be! It I say it this way, it probably signals a big boo-boo. Today’s boo-boo was not that big. In the cosmic order of things, it was miniscule. But I had caused some damage instead of delight. Oops!
I am not sure in the moment I was thinking about spiritual things and spiritual implications. But most of normal life has spiritual implications, I think. I refuse to define spirituality in such mystic, arcane ways that it has nothing to do with normal, routine life. For me all relationships are a reflection of my spirituality. They may reflect good spirituality (healthy relationships) or bad spirituality (unhealthy relationships).
Relationships are not static. There is no relationship---humanly speaking---that I have had all my life. Since both of my parents are deceased, that surely is true. No one I currently know has been part of my life, all my life. Every relationship I have has a beginning, some endurance and no ending---yet. Of course, I could point to countless relationships I have had that have ended. Probably in many of those cases, I am guilty of bad spirituality. Oops!
My backfire attempt at humor was an endeavor to develop an early relationship I have with this person. As with most early relationships, we are walking on eggs and don’t really know it. In new relationships, we often do not know where the pitfalls are. Oops! It is easy to “fall into the pit.” Oops! I fell into the pit today. No doubt, “Oops” was the sound accompanying my fall. I tried to scramble out of the pit, but I knew I had messed up the developing relationship. Now oops had turned to Dang!
Oops is typically the moment of recognition. Some people swear instead. I don’t find swearing very effective. In fact, swearing tends to be dismissive. If I blow it and swear, I might feel better---but that surely is an illusion because nothing is better. I like oops much better. Oops is my acknowledgment that I messed up…I blew it somehow. Even if I did not intend to blow it, once I recognize it, oops is my momentary apology.
Of course, there is much more work to do. Oops is transitional. Oops means, “Dang, I blew up.” Oops says, in effect, “my fault.” Normally, oops is my first response on the way to “I’m sorry.” I can elaborate by saying how I am sorry. “I did not intend to do it,” is one version of sorrow explained. Oops is important, because it means I am not trying to blame the other for my mistake.
Oops is humbling. Oops articulates the fact that I am not perfect. In theological terms, oops is the human response to sin. Again, oops is the recognition that theologically I blew it. I wonder if the Genesis text actually missed one of the utterances of Adam and Eve. When they ate the fruit in Eden and realized what they had done, I can believe Adam turned to Eve and said, “Oops!” Eve would have said something like, “Dang, we blew it.” And then they hid in the garden, for they were naked and afraid.
Let’s follow this biblical story. God did not immediately condemn them to hell forever and ever. Instead, God did banish them from Eden (another word for Paradise or Perfection). Now they were to live East of Eden---the world in which you and I live. East of Eden is a world of risk. Even when we mean well in our relationships, we risk blowing it. Probably the question is not whether we will blow it, but rather when will we blow it? Yesterday was my day to blow it. Oops!
I am confident my friend will be gracious and allow us to move beyond my mistake. I appreciate the grace---even if it seems like no big deal to the friend. Grace usually is a “Yes, but” experience. Grace comes to us even when we, Yes, have blown it. My friend and, doubtlessly God, says, “Yes you blew it, but…but that’s ok. Let’s move on.” Thanks to my friend and thanks be to God.
I will never take lightly those moments when I say, Oops. I will know it is a time of recognition and, ultimately, restoration of relationship. I thought Oops was not a good word. I now recognize it may actually be a good word. It is a good word if I can recognize and act on my mistake. Grace turns oops into Whew! Thanks!