Over the last 10 years, I have spent a lot of time and energy focused on my mistakes, the sins of my past. I have also spent a lot of time and energy trying to free myself from those mistakes. I have wrestled with God over control of forgiveness in my life….His, and mine. I have accepted forgiveness and then thown it back in a fit of self-loathing. I have given that burden to God and then yanked it back when the peace that I found in my unburdening became too much for my guilty heart to take.
I have thanked God for the grace that is so evident in my life, for the daily proof that He has forgiven me and doesn’t define our relationship by my past. I have felt the guilt that comes when unforgiveness of myself is sharing space with abundant grace and I don’t know what to do with that tension.
Over and over, I have struggled with what my heart knows and what my heart will allow.
I was inspired yesteday, by a video of an amazing young woman, Sarah Kay, who uses spoken word poetry to make sense of her world. When she is trying to help young people to find a start to their own stories, she asks them to make a list. The first list is always “10 things I know to be true”.
Inspired by that and this morning’s message about Lent, I decided that the list was a good way to get my jumbled thoughts started into something cohesive that I could hold on to, and maybe the words in my list will create a space that God can move into. This list represents that intersection between what my heart knows and what my heart will allow. It is what I know about my favorite mistakes.
10 things I know to be true about mistakes:
1. We all make them. From before our faltering first steps to our last ragged breaths, our lives will be filled with mistakes.
2. We give mistakes more power than they deserve. A mistake is just a mistake, no more, no less.
3. A mistake doesn’t define us, but it can define a moment in time. What we do from that moment on has nothing to do with the mistake, and everything to do with us.
4. God cares deeply about our mistakes, because He cares deeply about us. But when His heart aches for us, at the same time, His tears and His blood are washing our mistakes away. Any scorekeeping that happens is done by us, not by Him.
5. When we refuse to forgive our own mistakes, or the mistakes of others, we are living in the past. When we live in the past, we are missing the present and robbing ourselves of the promises of the future.
6. Sometimes our biggest mistakes, the things we did wrong, are exactly what causes us to be in the right place today. A small wrong can lead to big rights.
7. A mistake can cause us to lose our way, but if we keep our hearts tuned in, we can always find our way back. God’s GPS always has a “take me home” button, and when we get there, He will have the lights on and He will be waiting up.
8. A simple apology (to someone else, to ourselves, to God) is the best first step after any mistake. We should never ever underestimate the power, the beauty or the grace that can be found in “I’m sorry”.
9. When the weight of a mistake is weighing us down, there is sweet relief is giving that burden to God. Sometimes we will take the burden back, but it won’t be because God handed it back to us. It will be because we took it. Sometimes it takes lots of tries to give it up completely. We should keep trying.
10. When we are at the precipice of a mistake, just before we take the leap, we should pause, listen then act. If we make a mistake anyway, we should pause, listen, then move on. The next opportunity to do the right thing will come quickly. If we focus on the mistake, we might miss the opportunity.
11. We can’t protect someone from making their own mistakes. Even if we know better. Even if they are about to do something stupid. Our mistakes are ours and they are valuable. Mistakes are how we learn, and when we try to prevent others from making mistakes, we are also denying them the opportunity to learn from their choices, and yes, their mistakes. Just because someone else may find themselves in the same circumstances that we were once in, doesn’t mean that their outcome will be the same as ours and even if it is, their experience will affect them differently than ours did. Mistakes are important for everyone to make because when we are making mistakes, it means that we are living.
I do know how to count to 10, but number 11 seemed important. As a parent, I put a lot of energy into trying to steer my kids away from mistakes. I don’t want them to feel the pain of the mistakes that I have made. But when I am really honest, I realize that my job isn’t to prevent their mistakes. My job is to equip them for their mistakes. It is to give them a place to return to when their mistakes have left their hearts tattered and their confidence bruised. My job is to demonstrate grace to them, and to give them the same forgiveness that I have revceived from my heavenly Father. It is to provide them with a no strings attached kind of love that they can count on ESPECIALLY when they make mistakes. Because depsite my best efforts, they will make mistakes and they will learn from how I react, not just to my own mistakes, but by the way I react to theirs. I can model apology when I am wrong because I will mess up my job as their mom sometimes. And if I am really successful and I work really hard, maybe I can even show them how to forgive themselves by giving myself the gift of grace.
If you would like to hear more from the amazing Sarah Kay, I have linked the video below.