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.

This is just practice so mistakes are allowed

My eleven-year-old daughter stepped onto a field yesterday in all her field hockey gear.

She was the one on the field, but I was the one who was nervous.  Some of these girls have been playing for years and this is my girl’s first year.  Would they be gentle with her?  Would the coach be an encourager? (They were and she is!).

This is all new to us.  I don’t even come from a  hometown community where field hockey existed as a sport.  I don’t understand any of the rules or know how you move the ball  around with that funky, slightly curved stick.

When we picked out her equipment, I went to the sports consignment shop and asked a million questions.

She needs shinguards.  Is that the same as soccer shinguards or what?  She needs eye protection.  What in the world?  How do you know what size stick to use?  My goodness that ball is hard.  They really play with this thing?

I am an extreme novice.  A beginner of all beginners.  I’m starting from zero.

And that’s good.

It’s good not  to know all the answers before you even begin.

So, when she walked onto the slightly wet grass yesterday wearing her field hockey shinguards and holding her funky looking stick, I could not have been more proud of her.

She’s brave enough to try something new.

Me?  I don’t like to try new things.  I only want to try something I’m pretty sure I can succeed at, and by succeeding I don’t mean having fun.  I mean not looking foolish or making mistakes or ever falling down or ever doing it wrong.

You know, being perfect.

So, if I can’t be perfect, I don’t want to try.

And that’s wrong.  That’s terribly messed up and mistaken right there.   It creates a fear-driven paralysis and a performance-driven faith.

 

Not trying is the real failure.  That’s the mistake you can’t correct or overcome.

Trying something new takes humility and the willingness to  put yourself out there in a deeply courageous way.

 

I read these words today in a book by Sarah Loudin Thomas:

“… getting things wrong is nothing more than one of the steps on the way to getting them right” (Tapestry of Secrets).

Priscilla Shirer also says,

“mistakes are often the greatest teachers to help us learn to discern Him more clearly in the future.  So practice.  Stub your spiritual toes and scrape your spiritual knees.  And once you’re back on your feet, start practicing again” (Discerning the Voice of God).

Practice.

Maybe so much of my problem is that I’ve seen all of this—life, ministry, hearing from God, jobs and activities–as the “game.”

It’s competition time.  Perform.  Succeed.  Be perfect.  Don’t embarrass yourself.

But maybe I need to see it as practice instead.

Practice is about taking risks.  It’s about building skills.  It’s about ending the day as a better, wiser, more experienced player than the one I was this morning.

It’s about trying something, finding out it doesn’t work, and doing it differently next time.

It’s about learning from the coach and the players around me.  It’s about turning to Jesus, over and over and over again because I know just how much I need Him.

 

I’ve messed this up as a mom before and I so need to get this right, making our home and our family a safe place to try.  How can our home be a place where we applaud risking-failure while doing something new?  Where we cheer you on for following Jesus and you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be in progress?

I’ve messed this up before as a person, too, and I so need to get this right, being willing to obey God even when it means risking mistakes and stumbles and failures along the way.

After all,  I may see a mistake as THE END, but God doesn’t.  He knows this is practice.

The Psalmist says:

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
    when he delights in his way;
24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
    for the Lord upholds his hand.  Psalm 37:23-24 ESV

If our hearts are set on the Lord, if we’re delighting in His way, sure, we might fall sometimes.

But we won’t fail and it won’t be THE END.  We won’t be permanently disqualified from future ministry or written off by God as an unusable vessel, a disappointment, a failure.

No, the Lord holds us up so those moments when we fall, He keeps us from truly failing.   He gently sets us back on our shaky feet.  He leads us forward to try those steps all over again.

And the best part is, He always keeps hold of our hand.

 

Weekend Walk, 08/04/2012: Under the Olympic Lens

I know many of you probably complained about Olympics spoilers this year.  You already know by early afternoon who won the gold medal, but the official television coverage doesn’t begin until after dinner.  It’s pretty hard to be surprised by the results and maybe you hate that.

Not me.  I purposely look up the competitions to find out who won before I dare sit down to watch the actual sport.  It helps me mentally and emotionally prepare to relax and enjoy or fret and face disappointment.

Thus, I knew in advance for the women’s team gymnastics competition who would win.  And I knew which of the girls bounced on their landings or wobbled on the balance beam.

With all of that tension and stress out of the way, I started to enjoy the show, until I noticed the cameramen.

After flipping and twisting and flying into the air, every gymnastics competitor hopped down off the mats and hugged each of her teammates and her coach, trying to act reasonably normal despite the fact that massive cameras with lenses the size of my head were no more than a foot or two from her face.

The photographers were so intrusive.  None of the girls had even one second post-competition to themselves to recover or hide or be herself.

When she’s smiling and high-fiving after a job well done, that’s not so bad.

But when you’ve made a massive mistake that could cost you and your team the medal you’ve trained for most of your life, well, that’s horrifying to me.  Instead of cheering on the gymnasts, I found myself mentally screaming at the cameramen.

“Go away.  Give her some space, will ya?  Good grief, she’s a 16-year-old child who just needs a few minutes to get over a huge life disappointment.  Would it hurt you to take pictures somewhere else for a while and give her some privacy?”

Then the commentators would drone on and on about what she did wrong, how she angled this incorrectly or spun too far or fell off balance here.  They had diagrams and replays and slow-motion analysis.

People have a way of never forgetting our mistakes or perpetually defining us by our errors.

Yet, God always offers forgiveness to a truly repentant heart.

It’s beyond our understanding, then, that our omniscient God, who knows every darkest secret of our mind and heart, can push our mistakes and sins out of His memory.  This week, I’m meditating on passage all about this absolutely amazing grace:

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
(Psalm 103:8-12).

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com 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.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.