The Parable of the Water Glass


Why are so easy on ourselves but so tough on others?

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The Parable of the Water Glass

When my daughter Carmen was a child she demonstrated extraordinary skill in knocking her water glass over at the table. I know most kids go through this phase, but she excelled at it. Dinnertime became an adventure and an evening without a spill was celebrated.

She was about 4 or 5 years old … she didn’t do it on purpose … it wasn’t defiance just normal childhood clumsiness.

She was never punished.

During this time I took the family to dinner to an upscale restaurant after church one Sunday evening. As we entered I saw the President of the seminary I was attending. With him were his wife and the pastor, along with his wife, of the largest church in our city. This pastor was an icon in my city and known throughout the church world.

Seated in the middle of the “half-moon” table was Dr. Carl F. Henry, one of America’s foremost theologians. I recognized him from his pictures and I remembered that he was in town as a guest lecturer at my seminary. For reasons I can’t remember I had been unable to attend.

When the President saw me he waved me over to their table to introduce me. I was glad he did. I wanted to say hello to all and meet Dr. Henry. The President said, “Dr. Henry, I would like for you to meet one of our students, Roger Daniel. Roger, this is Dr. Carl F. Henry.”

I reached to shake his hand.

I missed his hand.

I nailed his water glass.

It wasn’t an ordinary sized water glass. It was a super-duper-jumbo, filled to the top. To my horror-stricken eyes, it looked like a tidal wave rushing out of the glass and sweeping away everything in its path.

Dr. Henry’s steak was soaked. His green beans were floating. His suit was ruined. The table was standing in water.

I offered a quick prayer with an urgent appeal for God to open the ground and swallow me. I am not embarrassed or flustered easily. But this was no ordinary occasion and these were no ordinary people. I was humiliated beyond words and turned more shades of red that I wanted to think about.

Dr. Henry is a great scholar. He is an even nicer man.

Sensing my extreme discomfort, he tried to put me at ease. With remarkable kindness and wit he said, “It’s okay. I’m a Baptist and we love water.” What graciousness from the man whose suit and dinner I ruined in a single failed swoop!

When I turned around to escape the scene of this most embarrassing moment, I caught my daughter’s eyes. The look on her face was absolutely priceless. Oh, how she enjoyed watching her father squirm!

I walked to the table, looked at Carmen and said, “Don’t say a word.” She didn’t. She didn’t have to. The flood I left behind said it all.

Well, not quite. There’s one more thing to be said:

Be gracious with others when they knock over their water glass. If you sit at the table long enough, someday you will knock yours over.

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