When One Choice Turns Into a Disaster

The worth of a man must be measured by his life, not by his failure under a singular and peculiar trial. Peter the apostle, though forewarned, thrice denied his Master on the first alarm of danger; yet that Master, who knew his nature in its strength and in its infirmity, chose him.” ~Historian Froude

Photo credit: Creative Commons (Flickr)

An unfortunate story has erupted among the community in which I live, involving the local high school athletic director/football coach. The details of the story are unimportant for what I want to write about today, but in summary, he wrote a letter on official school letterhead (first mistake) to a judge, offering supportive information about an individual who donated to the football program years prior. What makes the factual information so controversial (and therefore, his second mistake), is that the subject of the letter is a convicted sex offender.

The community outcry is astounding.

On one side of the mob, supporters of the beloved administrator and coach feel that, although a mistake, the letter was naively written with the offender’s family in mind (two sons had been players for the football program). The coach was acting in his usual kindhearted, helpful way. The other side of the mob wants the local coach publicly hung in the town square (if such a thing were still done), venomously proposing that his actions make him a supporter of child molestation.

For those of you who don’t live in Maple Valley, Washington, this is a news story. The names and faces are meaningless, and hold no weight. Make your opinion. We do this every day while watching our local or world news. But for those of us who walk, shop, and work in this community (especially those employed in the same school district), the story is personal.

I know Tony Davis. My husband knows him even better.

What do I know about Tony?

  1. When I substitute teach at the high school he is one to always smile and greet me in passing. I’m only around once or twice a week, yet I feel welcomed and appreciated by my encounters with him.
  2. Not too long ago I collected as many encouraging notes as I could for my husband’s 50th birthday, mostly from men in his life who have mentored and supported him as a teacher, husband, father, and man of integrity. Tony was one of the first to get back to me with a letter praising my husband’s impact as a physical fitness teacher who makes a difference in the community.
  3. On my way to substitute teach a few months ago I was held up in front of the school because of an accident that had taken place by a student who had rear ended another car. I had a front row view of the aftermath, all traffic stopped until police and assistance arrived. Tony Davis was the school employee, right there, on the scene, consoling the student who was visibly shaken up by the aftermath of a mistake.
  4. When our son was a senior and about to begin his final tennis season, parents of all athletes entering the spring sports season were brought to the school for a mandatory meeting. Tony Davis led the event by introducing a man who specializes in educating parents on how to handle their child’s athletic endeavors. You see, “we” (being over-enthusiastic parental supporters) have become a problem when it comes to our children and their sports. We must be taught on what is appropriate and what is not when dealing with our kids, their coaches, and their playing time. This took great courage to tackle a sensitive subject, and I left impressed by Mr. Davis and the fortitude it must have taken to orchestrate such an event.

That is what I know of Tony Davis.

I do confess that I don’t know the others who make up the main characters in this story–the perpetrator, nor the victim. In no way do I want to forget or devalue the details of why a man is on trial in the first place. I write today, not to offer a solution to an emotional drama unfolding where I live, but to bring out two main points:

First, because of the world in which we now live, it is more important than ever to consider our choices.

What feels most unfortunate about this story is that I do believe Mr. Davis did not consider the ramifications of his decision to write the letter. He’s publicly admitted as such. Unfortunately, in today’s time, with social soap boxes widespread and very public, one small mistake can become explosive. I have coached for years that there are consequences for each and every choice we make. Oftentimes, those consequences are far more reaching than we’d ever imagine.

This incident reminds me afresh that one cannot be too careful in decision making. There will be passionate judges at every turn to remind us when a choice was not well thought out. When given the chance to choose, don’t forget to “stand and look at the crossroads” carefully before proceeding forward, even if the choice seems small or insignificant.

The second point will seem counter intuitive to the first, but true nonetheless.

No one can make perfect decisions. We will make mistakes.

We all know this to be true. We all accept this for ourselves. But, WOW, do we suck at offering the same acceptance toward others!

I often recall a story my dad told of the time he was sitting around with his long-time closest male friends after the Bill Clinton scandal. They were popping off appalled judgment toward the totally inappropriate behavior that had occurred, in the White House, no less, when my dad brought a pause to the duplicity.

He said, “Yo, we need to hold up a minute! If anyone chose to examine the details of our own lives, none of us would be fit for the White House.

I suppose this is my main reason for writing today. Despite the pain, injustice, even wickedness that others have caused us, or those we love, none of us are “fit” for any position we hold. Not one of us is worthy to fill the role of mother, father, employee, mentor, citizen, coach, or public office. If all of our thoughts, actions, choices were displayed on official letterhead–innocent or contrived–no one would pass the test. We would all be hung in the town square.

So what are we to do? How should be approach tomorrow if one choice we make turns into a disaster?

The only answer I have is Jesus.

Situations like the one surrounding my address is exactly why we need him. Anyone wise enough to read the Bible will see that the whole theme is that God uses screwed up people to fulfill his ultimate purpose. He chooses people, in their strength and their infirmity, to make choices for him. And because we screw it up time and time again, we can always go back to the sacrifice that was made for us through Jesus.

It’s ironic that while he lived on earth, Jesus never made a mistake. He never wrote the wrong letter. Yet the crowd still shouted, “Crucify him.”

Guilty or not, the “crowd” hasn’t changed much. Thankfully, the sacrifice made to set us free from guilt and shame stands forever. This is the only hope we have. Otherwise, prepare to be hung by the crowd.