Falling On My Butt


You’ve seen the Peanuts cartoon. Lucy coaxes Charlie Brown to try to kick a football. Charlie Brown steps back, lines up, and ends up on his backside.

This gag first appeared in a Peanuts cartoon in 1952, and nearly 60 years later the gag still makes us giggle.

This mental picture is how I often feel about my relationship with the Detroit Lions. Every fall I try to temper my expectations, but somehow they get away from me. Maybe it will be a good preseason game, or a new player who seems to be making a difference. Maybe our star quarterback is finally healthy. Whatever the reason every fall I find myself in Charlie Brown’s shoes, backing up to kick a football that I know has a good chance of not being there when I need it.

When asked why I’m a Lions fan the easy answer is that it’s my parent’s fault. They gave birth to me and raised me in Michigan. I have always has a sense of home state solidarity. I have a friend whose mother was Canadian. She drove across the border to the US to have her baby here so her child would be a US citizen. The least my parents could have done for me was drive me to a state with a good football team to give birth to me.  Apparently they were too short sighted for this. And so, every year just when I get up the gumption to get excited about my football team again, the ball is pulled away and I land on my butt.

Once again this year, it’s happening. They started the season by winning five games in a row. I was dancing in the streets, expectations were soaring, Super Bowl here we come. They have now lost five of their last seven games and I’m lying dazed wondering what in the world happened.

This exact same thing happens in our relationships with the people around us. There are times in our relationships when we are Charlie Brown, and times when we are Lucy. There are times we are placing our trust in other people, and other times when people are placing their trust in us.

If you are in relationship with someone long enough they will let you down. You will feel like the Charlie Brown in the relationship. I tell the people of our church that if they know me long enough, I will let them down. I don’t say it as a cop out, or to give myself permission to be a bad pastor or friend. But I know that I’m human. I forget things. I don’t always read people right and I make bad relational judgments. I get busy with projects and forget about people.

What I ask the people of our church is for two things: grace, and information. The first one is an understanding that I am human. The second is that when I let them down I ask that they come talk to be about what has happened. Too often when relationships are broken one side doesn’t even know the rift occurred.

This played out in my life recently. My wife and I made an oversight that hurt someone. It was unintentional, but was definitely our fault. This person was kind enough to approach us about the situation, which gave us an opportunity to make things right and apologize. It will take a little while for the relationship to be the way it was, but it will take much less time than if they had not said anything in the first place.

We all need a Charlie Brown in our lives, someone who believes in us not because of who we are, but in spite of who we are.  I’m grateful for those people in my life.

It’s easy to criticize Charlie Brown as the naïve putz who gets tricked every time. But maybe he is the eternal optimist who always sees the best in people and believes the best in people. I would rather be the guy who fell on his butt because he believed in someone than the person who never placed their hope in anyone.


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