For more months that I can recall I have begun the process of writing this on Tuesday and/or Wednesday, in order to relieve the Thursday morning Thirst stress I had been experiencing by developing them entirely on Thursday mornings. But this week was different. Monday’s busy schedule put me behind the ball on Sunday’s sermon preparation. Tuesday I made seven different home visits. Wednesday I focused on preparing for Thursday’s funeral, changing Friday’s plans to attend an out-of-town family funeral, and catching up on Sunday’s sermon preparation. Then, around 8:30 p.m., I realized it was Wednesday evening and I had not even considered that the next day would bring Thursday morning. OOPS!

Over the years there have been occasional other weeks when the problem was more problematic. I am not sure if the weeks were busier or I was just less focused or disciplined, but Saturday evening would come, and I would realize that I had not written Sunday’s sermon. Generally, I would get up an hour or so earlier on Sunday morning, figure out a plan, and work my way through it. However, there were times I happened to mention the issue to Monica on Saturday night. Though I made it through Sunday morning, she would lose a night’s sleep. OOPS.

And then there are the times when the mistake goes in the opposite direction. My lips speak before my mind has the opportunity to process and restrict the reaction … or an hour or two (or more) later I realize what I should have said in a conversation … or I know immediately what I should do but hesitate until the opportunity is gone. OOPS! OOPS! OOPS! And it’s one … two … three strikes you’re out … What is a person to do?

At this point there are two “catch phrases” that keep me going. One is “The first move is His.” The “H” is capitalized to emphasize who makes the first move. It was our heavenly Father sending His Son to the earth in human form (John 3.16). It was the Son hanging on the cross to die for me (Hebrews 12.2). It was the Holy Spirit creating faith in my heart in the sacrament of Holy Baptism (Titus 3.4-7). It was our gracious Triune God forgiving me of all my sins … shortcomings and failures … even before my first OOPS!

The second catch phrase is “Better late than never.” While the first catch phrase is directly related to AA step #2, this one reflects #9 – making amends. Often times this is not possible, but many times it is. It may come with me saying, “I want you to know how sorry I am about …” or “Something inappropriate that I said the other day has been bothering me” … “Remember what we were talking about earlier, well I have had the opportunity to think about it more, and …” Confessing my OOPS may not resolve every issue, but it always has the possibility of opening the door.

The door will be opened more frequently if I have established the context by my being evangelical about (that is, forgiving and not holding against) the OOPS that I feel others lob toward me. And this, of course, means doing it the way God does it to me. His forgiveness is constant and never waits for or relies upon my confession or repentance. If I don’t do the same to my fellow human beings, it is one great big OOPS on my part.

This leads me to wonder if OOPS is really an acronym that originally was spelled O.O.P.S. Which then would come from “Only One Person Screwup”. This means that when I say “OOPS” I am saying that one person is me. Of course, it also means that when you say “OOPS” that one person is you! If we both say it together, the word becomes T.O.P.S. – Two Only People Screwup!

Looking for the opposite of O.O.P.S.? Try this: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God is Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4.29-32)

And if you are wondering about God’s grace at work in it all, consider this. It was out of the blue that he got my attention last night at 8:30 … and by 9:15 (just 15 minutes after my bedtime) six paragraphs were written, and the stress totally removed. But this is really nothing new, for the promise came centuries before the first Christmas. “They shall not labor in vain or bear children for sudden terror, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.” (Isaiah 65.23-24) Or more simply, as often as I say it, God never has and never will need to say, “OOPS.”