Mistakes, mess-ups, failures, growing pains, and a need for grace

 

I’ve been writing notes and sending cards since we’ve been shut away from friends and church family.  Sometimes it’s a text message  or an email to say, “I’m thinking of you today.”  But I’ve also been refilling my supply of stamps and note cards regularly as I send out snail mail.

Last week, I discovered an extra set of stamps that I’d bought long ago and I was so excited about the little unexpected blessing:   Stamps when I thought I was almost out of stamps.  What a blessing!

It was like waking  up to manna or miraculous oil in a near-empty jug or wine overflowing when the wedding feast ran out of wine.   All those things.

I happily mailed out a few more cards.

Then this week, my daughter asked me if she could mail some cards also, so I pulled out those extra stamps and saw what I’d missed before:  the word “Postcard” in teeny tiny, minuscule letters on the bottom.

Oh.

That’s why those stamps had been sitting for a good long while.  I bought them to mail out a few postcards and the extras just sat and sat.

I’ve been stressing about this for days now.  Apparently, I’ve been sending out regular cards with only postcard postage.

Great.  Either the cards will return back to me so I can have  a re-do (I love a good re-do), or the post office will deliver my cards and actually ask other people to pay the missing postage.

How embarrassing.

I’d rather the secret re-do option, of course.  But I have no power here.  I’m at the mercy of the postal service.

So, I  wait.

It’s the silliest little mistake, but a mistake I’ve been fretting over nonetheless.  That’s partly because all of this coronavirus shifting we’ve been doing has brought so much failing our way to  success over here.

We’re doing  new things in new ways and that can get messy and exhausting.

Technology alone brings it’s own growing pains.  Try this video, this sound, this streaming program, this way of filming, this way of posting.   And all along the way we leave a trail of trying, messing up, and trying again.

I  also can’t keep my dates straight, at all.  I keep thinking Mother’s Day is this week and not next week.  The days are just running all together.

All of these mess-ups leave us so tender-hearted.  So humbled.  How many times can we say the words, “Sorry.  That didn’t work. My bad. I missed that.   I made a mistake.  I used the wrong stamp.?”  (I’m still so embarrassed about the stamps.)

But so many of us are in the same place.

That’s the thing.

I’m so compassionate  and deeply grateful as I see my kids’ teachers trying so many new things every single day.  I think—-thank you, friends, for putting yourself out there for my kids.  For getting on Zoom videos and Facebook live posts and whatever else is happening.  I know some of them would prefer not to be on a video.  I GET that.  I don’t want  to be in videos either.  But they do it anyway.

Then there  are days the sound doesn’t work or the screen is backwards or the link they thought they posted didn’t post or didn’t work or whatever whatever.  I feel like saying, “Solidarity, my friend!  I am with you.  We are all trying so hard and it’s imperfect and messy, but we’re genuine and humbled and real and just making  it through.”

We can shake off the old, the broken, the mistake-ridden the failure and the mess up because we have this grace: We can try again.

And, even if a new days is full  of new mistakes, Jesus isn’t giving up on me or on any of us.

I read this promise in Scripture:

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease (Genesis 8:22 ESV).

The rhythms of creation itself are a reassurance of the rhythm of grace.

Day and night come ceaselessly.  I will wake up to a new day, a fresh start, an opportunity to try again and maybe even get it right this time  (and to buy new stamps.)

More than that, whole seasons come and go with certainty.

One bad year of planting isn’t the end.  One season of hard soil,  no rain, or destruction from storms and pests isn’t the end.

Spring comes anew and I can plow the field fresh, drop the seeds into the earth, and look forward to a better harvest.

The failures of one day, one moment even, are only permanent if I choose to give up instead of going forward.

Fresh starts and new beginnings: That’s what God promises us, season after season, day after day.

It’s not the End of the World as We Know It

She grumped into the mini-van after school, plodding along, keeping her hands folded across her chest as much as possible.  She was non-verbal, totally unresponsive to my cheerful queries about her day and her friends and her teacher.  Slumping down as low as she could go in her seatbelt, her chin touched her chest, her eyes glared down at the floor.

I got the message.  Bad day.

Slowly she explained with little bits of dialogue here and there, mostly in a whine, sometimes in anger.

“The cafeteria lady put baked fruit on my tray even when I told her I didn’t want it.”

Oh and her older sister tattled on her because she stood on the school’s grass at the end of the day instead of staying on the sidewalk.

What a day.

I found myself telling this Chicken Little of mine that the sky hadn’t fallen because of a tiny scoop of unwanted baked fruit and the world hadn’t ended because her sister ratted her out for straying onto the grass.

So, was it worth freaking out, crying, yelling, and ruining her Friday afternoon over this, just this?

Of course, it all did seem like a disaster to a six-year-old.

Just like an embarrassing mistake seemed like the end of the world to me yesterday.  I was scatter-brained and forgetful and I was frustrated and angry with myself.

My husband said, “It’s okay.  It’s not the end of the world.”

Maybe that’s where my daughter gets it from, from me and how I fret so quickly over things I could just shake off my back if I chose.

Sometimes we’re fretting about the foolish things and the minor details.  We worry over lamentations3ba mistake that’s done and over with and in the past already.  We stress over hypotheticals and what if’s that never even happen.  We toss and turn over situations that God’s already provided an answer for.

And it all seems foolish in hindsight.

But even when we’re not, even when it’s more than a six-year-old’s idea of “the end of the world,” even when it’s truly a crisis and we feel trapped and hopeless….even then we can breathe in and breathe out God’s grace.

Even then, we are not consumed.

That’s what Jeremiah wrote to the Jewish people when their city was destroyed by captors, and they had endured starvation and invasion and seen their best and brightest young people carried off into captivity in Babylon.  Even then, he wrote:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Paul wrote it, too:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
2 Corinthians 4:8

No stumbling block or obstacle is the hopeless end of the world it may seem.  Whether it’s a true crisis or an annoyance of the moment, still God is with us and because of His love, grace, and faithfulness, we can breathe in and breathe out.

We can rest in Him.

We can let it go.

At Women of Faith last summer, Patsy Clairmont reminded us that Moses wasn’t drawn to the burning bush because it was on fire.  Fires happened all the time in the heat of the desert sun.

Instead, he stepped away from his flock of sheep out of curiosity because “though the bush was on fire it did not burn up” (Exodus 3:2).

That’s our testimony also!  God allows us to walk through the fire without being burned and it is that constant faith in His care that shows others His glory.  It makes them turn aside out of curiosity and ask, “What does she have that helps her walk through these flames unscorched?”

How is it that we can move on after a hurt or show grace for a mistake?  How is it that we can look at the budget on paper and not be in despair?  How can we hear that news, accept that decision, face that tomorrow, wait what seems like forever without being thrown into crippling anxiety and overwhelming panic?

How can we stand in the middle of the fire and not be consumed?

It’s Jesus.  It’s God with us.  It’s His grace and His promise to care for us in all things whether big or small.  It’s choosing joy and choosing to trust in Him that saves us from the flames.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King