As part of my usual working week, I attend several planning meetings, including one with staff at my corps – a wonderful team I’m very grateful for.
Recently, we were due to start a 12-noon meeting when, at one minute to 12, one staff member entered in a rush and said to the rest of the team, “Sorry, I’m late.” I replied, “You’re not.” To which she said, “Well, almost. Sorry.”
As she took her seat, I tried to wrap my head around the concept of apologising for being ‘almost’ late for a meeting. If you’re not late – even if you’re ‘almost’ late – then you’re either on time or early. So why was she apologising for being early to a meeting?
Imagine someone passing a cup of tea to you and the tea gets a bit ‘wavy’ in the cup, but they don’t spill a drop, and as they pass it to you, they say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I almost spilled it then.” What are they apologising for?
Apologising for things that almost happen but don’t is a curious thing. I’m kept busy apologising for the things I’ve done wrong without also apologising for the things I got right!
Speaking of things I’ve done wrong. I recall a time at a previous corps appointment when a young man who attended the corps came to me after one Sunday meeting and asked if I’d pray for him on Tuesday at 10am because he had a job interview for a casual job. I asked some questions about the position, wished him all the best, and assured him of my prayers.
Next Sunday, after the meeting, he again approached me, and I had a sudden glimmer of a thought that I was supposed to have done something for him. He smiled broadly and said, “I got the job!”. I said that was wonderful, and he replied, “Thank you for your prayer. It must have worked!”.
Now, two things here: first, I forgot to pray for him. It never happened. Second, he was a young man still finding his way into faith and learning about the value of prayer. He was standing in front of me, believing that perhaps, just maybe, this prayer thing seemed to actually work. Maybe there really was a God who listened to us.
Should I have apologised to him for my oversight? I decided I’d deliberately vague it up. I said, “Well, God knows what’s best. He must have wanted you to get that job.”
This seemed to satisfy him, and he went away with a smile on his face and a fervent belief in prayer.
In my defence, I never lied to him. He had the job. He believed in prayer. All was good. Well, goodish. It seemed to me that even though I should have been apologising to him, it was more important that he learnt a valuable lesson about prayer. Despite the lack of a, well, an actual, you know ... prayer.
As it says in Romans 8:26–27, the Spirit intercedes for us in accordance with the will of God. So I’m of the belief that the Spirit prayed for him because I forgot. At least I ‘almost’ prayed. Surely that counts for something.
– Major Mal Davies and his wife Major Tracey are the Corps Officers at Adelaide City Salvos