I once heard a story about a little boy who misheard part of the Lord’s Prayer. Where it says, “forgive us our trespasses,” he thought the people at church were saying, “forgive us our trash baskets.”
There’s actually a term for this. According to Dictionary.com, a word or phrase resulting from a mishearing of another word or phrase is called a mondegreen. In many cases, the misinterpretation gives the original phrase a new meaning. Like in the song, Purple Haze, when Jimmy Hendrix sings, “Scuse me while I kiss the sky,” but the listener hears, “Scuse me while I kiss this guy.”
I wonder, do mondegreens sometimes happen when God speaks to us? After all, He doesn’t think or work the same way we do (Isaiah 55:9), so it stands to reason that His instructions could easily be lost in translation.
God: “You have enough stuff.”
Me: “I need a new truck!”
Or maybe we clearly hear what God says, but creatively interpret the meaning. This mistake cost Saul his kingdom, in 1 Samuel chapter 13, when he offered up burnt offerings to God as a stand-in for the prophet Samuel.
Something like this happened to me the year I turned forty, but not with such dire results. I clearly heard the Holy Spirit say, “It’s time to get the music started.” I interpreted this to mean that I needed to begin a Christian concert ministry, record albums, and pitch my songs to Nashville publishers. To me, it was all or nothing–throwing the entirety of God’s resources up in the air at once.
But the Lord had something else in mind. He opened a door for my wife and me to share music in nursing homes and assisted living centers, making seniors feel better by singing their favorite hymns. My own gospel songs never made it to Nashville, but they still touched people–a few at a time. I know, because they told me so. Clearly, God’s plan to, “get the music started,” meant something more like passing out a bag of nickels one at time, rather than my grandiose ideas.
So that’s my, “What was that, God?” story.
Have you ever misheard God or misinterpreted what He said to you? If so, please share. I’d love to hear about it.