Sitting In The Stew: Learning From Our Mistakes
When I was sent to my room by my Mom for misbehaviour as an 11-year-old, I booted a hole in my bedroom wall. Oh, it was purely an honest accident! As I lay on my bed, pouting in anger with my feet up against the wall, my heel just kind of popped through. Oh no!!
Panic stricken, I tried to cover it up. In fact, I hung a drawing I had just bought for a quarter from a neighbour boy over top of the hole. I packed a bag with a shirt, my hairbrush, and my pjs, and went out to the kitchen to let Mom know that I was running away.
To my great relief, Mom suggested that I might change my mind because we were having my favourite meal for dinner that night. So, back to my room I went to wait for my Dad to come home from work. I can still remember distinctly how that 2 or 3 hours was sheer torture. But, when he finally arrived home, I had gathered my resolve and admitted to him what I had done -even by mistake- in my fit of anger. To my great astonishment and relief, he simply said, "Well next time, keep your feet off the wall." And, even as an 11-year-old, I realized that the prayers I had been whispering that entire afternoon had been heard and answered.
“A person who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if that person confesses and forsakes those mistakes, another chance is given.” Proverbs 28:13 TLB
Sitting in the Stew
I often think that when we've made a mistake God does the same thing with us as my Mom did with me that day. He lets us "stew" a little in the worry and solitude. He allows us time to reflect on a negative situation and look to Him for resolution. He waits for us to admit what we've done and then own it. In his second letter to the churches of Asia Minor, Peter reminds members, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9 NIV
Reject the Urge to Deflect
Have you ever experienced a situation where you believed yourself the victim of a heated argument or horrible disagreement? Maybe you have suffered an estrangement or heart-wrenching separation and pushed the blame onto the other parties involved?
Five years ago, a deeply stressful situation caused me to make a mistake in some angry words spoken and unkind actions taken. After several miserable months, I began to realize that, while I had originally seen myself as the "victim", those other parties were also victims, scarred and hurt by my unkind treatment of them. In reality, we were all victims of the same sad situation, but I was too wrapped in my own self-pity to realize it. I tried to cover my mistake by passing blame to others and justifying my behaviour as "natural due to the circumstances".
The Bible is filled with stories of people who made bad decisions leading them to make tragic mistakes, and then trying to cover their tracks. From the very first, we see Eve, going against God's direction and then attempting to deflect blame elsewhere. "Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”" Genesis 3:13 ESV History's very first deflection of blame.
Small or large, intentional or accidental, we all make mistakes. Even then and no matter what, God is right there with us. Our mistakes are part of His plan. How we recognize and handle them, however, is what determines who we become. If we try to cover up or hide or deflect our mistakes, we are only lying to ourselves; and even worse, to God.
When We Make a Mistake, Look Up!
Once we admit a mistake, we are acknowledging our willingness to make amends. When we admit a mistake, we should be looking for the lesson. When we search for the lesson, we will be gaining wisdom. When we ask for forgiveness, we can be sure that it has been freely given by God.
"Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin." Psalm 32:5 NIV
Admitting we made a mistake is one of the hardest things we will ever have to do, but there is so much at stake for us. Covering up or deflecting blame not only robs us of our self-respect and peace of mind, it causes our integrity to crumble. Worse yet, usually covering up or deflecting one mistake will inevitably lead us to the mistake of lying in order to continue deflecting or covering up. Each time, a new layer of deceit (to oneself and others) is added, taking us further from our true self and from God. King David is a perfect example of someone whose mistakes and cover-ups piled up one after another, eventually ending in tragedy. But, finally, he came to the realization that he had sinned and he "looked up". In his beautifully written Psalm 51, he acknowledges his mistakes and transgressions, "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight," Psalm 51:3-4 ESV
"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved." Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV
On a daily basis, life is a struggle for all of us and we're all bound to make mistakes. But if we complicate things by trying to cover up or deflect them, we risk becoming a hard shell blanketed with the layers of self-deception and untruth. And, even if others who have been affected by our mistakes are unwilling to to extend forgiveness, God always will. ALWAYS! He knows our hearts and hears our prayers.
Paws To Pray
We live in a world today that tests our resolve and integrity constantly. Help us to move through our days in ways that honour You and allow us to live honestly. Lord, give us the insight to know when we've made a mistake and the courage to admit it. Help us to take responsibility for our mistakes and grow in wisdom by doing so. Remind us that, while mistakes will be part of Your plan, we must look up to You for guidance, remembering Your instructions to live in love and extend forgiveness, even to those whose mistakes have hurt us. We remain deeply grateful, Lord, that through Your grace and mercy alone, we are forgiven.
In Your Name We Pray,
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