We’ve been giving do-overs here at my house.
Snarkiness has been on the rise.
So, when we hear, “Move! I can’t see!”
We respond with, “You want to try saying that again in a kinder way?”
Or we hear, “Put that down! That’s mine!”
We say, “Try that again. I’m sure you could say that differently.”
I love do-overs.
I love the utter grace of it all, that even though you made a mistake, you can have another go at it. Maybe you’ll do better this time.
Learn from those errors. Make some corrections.
Maybe this time you won’t miss or forget. Maybe you’ll study harder or speak with kindness or choose not to gossip.
My hope is that the do-overs now will help those lessons sink in before it’s too late, because we all know you can’t always have a do-over.
Sometimes, bad things happen and once it’s done, it’s done.
A missed opportunity can’t be regained.
One day, those words will slip out and they’ll be said. You can’t take them back.
Sure, you can apologize. You can attempt restoration.
BUT WORDS ONCE SAID CAN’T BE UN-SAID, AND THE COLLATERAL DAMAGE FROM AN OUT-OF-CONTROL TONGUE CAN BE DEVASTATING.
In those moments when you can’t have a do-over, though, you have to learn a new skill: Moving on after you’ve messed up.
Shame from mistakes can drag us right down and bolt us to the floor. We can’t move forward. We’re chained to the past.
At night, I rumble through conversations I wish I’d handled differently.
I consider the mistakes I wish I could un-do and the decisions I wish I could un-decide.
It’s hard to let it go and just rest already. I keep thinking, “if only….”
If only this hadn’t happened….
If only I’d done this instead…..
I want a do-over. I want to rewind back to the start of the day and just try again.
But I can’t. So I replay the wrong over and over and over. I’m stuck in a perpetual loop of embarrassment and self-condemnation.
Paul makes this sound so easy:
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14 ESV)
Just forget what’s behind, look forward to the future and move on?
If only it were that simple!
Then I consider Paul’s words, how he’s straining forward and pressing on. This is discipline and endurance. This is refusing to get bogged down.
It’s falling down in the middle of a race and yet choosing to push to your feet and keep on going to the finish line even if you’re limping all the way there.
Surely this is how David felt after being confronted with his own sin of adultery and murder.
One bad decision led to another bad decision and now here he was, unable to have a do-over. He couldn’t un-commit adultery with Bathsheba. He couldn’t un-murder her husband.
But he prays for God’s mercy, for God to “blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! (Psalm 51:1b-2). He asks God to:
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:9-10).
This I understand.
When I’m weighed down by mistakes that I can’t do-over, I’m compelled to cry out for “mercy!” I rely on God’s grace to wash my soul and renew my heart for Him.
But then David does something more. He doesn’t just stand there in the cleansing flood of grace. He doesn’t keep re-hashing his need for mercy.
No, he begins to look forward. He talks of moving on.
This is where I lean in to David’s Psalm today, because too often I’m stuck in the cry for mercy and can’t shake the shame.
Yet, David prays:
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you…
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness (Psalm 51:12-13, 14b)
HE’S FINDING MERCY IN THE MESS, RECEIVING RESTORATION, LEARNING FROM HIS MISTAKES, TEACHING OTHERS, AND WORSHIPING GOD FOR THIS SALVATION-GIFT.
I have to choose to accept the grace, too.
I have to choose to forget the past. Every time my face heats up with shame, I remind myself that it’s done. Over with. Behind me. Forgiven.
I have to choose to move on, choose to learn and grow and worship and teach others.
And the next time I’m reminded of how I messed up, I make all of those choices all over again because even if I can’t do over, I can do better next time.
Originally published April 2016