Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Miracle of Mistakes...

Don't know about you, but I've made my share of mistakes. You see, it all started when I was a baby attempting to walk- I miscalculated and fell a lot. My balance was challenged, but no more than that of any other baby. It would seem ridiculous for a parent to scold a baby for falling while attempting to walk. In fact, parents smile and make over a little one as he/she takes those important first steps. Proud Moms & Dads stand a short distance away from their unsteady offspring, arms outstretched, inviting the toddler to "Come to me".

I'm a reasonably coordinated, quick learner, but peddling a bike, riding horses and learning how to skate were very real challenges. I went down a lot, but each time I bit the dust, I learned something. My brain was making calculations and recording results. Though I fell, I was learning and eventually, though I'll never be an Olympian, I could ride like a champ. What would've happened if at any point, I was yelled at whenever I lost my balance? What if I was kicked out of the family unless I could promise never to make any mistakes? I would have been terrified to try anything and probably would have ended up a vegetable lying flat on my back and pretty much useless.

Scripture says, "Perfect love casts out fear"...

Humans make mistakes- that's what we do. It's all part of a Divine learning program. Now, I'm not saying we should go out and deliberately do something we know is wrong and then excuse or explain it away. We need to use good judgment. However, even the most careful and sincere people mess up. Then what? Does God get angry and pull away? NO, He forgives and encourages. Like a loving parent, He wipes the tears, brushes us off, sets us back on our feet and continues to invite "Come to Daddy, Sweetheart".

I'm still learning how to walk- with Him. I've been tripped up and I've chased a few rabbit trails, but the miracle of it all is that these mistakes have taught me more about who I am and more importantly, Who God Is. This process helps me see my need for something bigger than myself. When people scold, lecture and condemn people- especially the youth- for their behavior and think for them, they are, in a sense, telling them it's a sin to exercise our intelligence or make any miscalculations in the formula of life. It is oppression of the very individuality of thought and feeling God Himself instilled in us. This puts a ton of pressure on an already insecure person not to "mess up" and to exhibit a certain mode of behavior or they will be lost. Perfectionism is a cruel taskmaster. Christians tend to focus on avoiding certain behaviors and come down pretty hard on each other. Is this love or control? Maturity or manipulation? Wisdom or folly?

What if we allow each other room to question, to mingle, to seek and try on new thoughts and ideas? Is it possible that in our great caution against making mistakes, many who could run- even dance in the presence of the Lord are only allowed to walk with a cautious shuffle? If so, how then will we ever learn to fly??


  1. I agree with your sentiments here, but if I could put on my conservative SDA robe for a moment, I would say:

    Yes, accepting mistakes is all well and good, but what is supposed to happen in heaven and in the new earth if we still have a bunch of people making mistakes, suffering bouts of jealousy, etc?

    That is to say, how do we ever end up with a perfect world? Or should we revise what we as SDA's have traditionally been taught about that idea?


  2. Hi "Glenn",

    Good question! I believe we will have a perfect world in Heaven and on the New Earth. It would not be paradise if we had drug lords, STD's and Drunk Driving up there. However, peace and tranquility is only possible when 1) We live in a perfect, stress free world and 2) People truly know how to love. We can only love genuinely when we behold the awesome love of God for us and make that our focus! Holding fear, guilt and condemnation over someone's head does not cause a sincere love response.

    Love leaves no room for jealousy, it is patient, kind, not puffed up. It is not self-seeking. Scripture says, "Love is the fulfillment of the Law."

    Now we see through a glass dimly, but then will all things be made known to us. Thankfully, we will have all eternity to grow closer to God and to each other.
    I think we will be in for a surprise when we actually come face to face with God. He is simply too great for our feeble minds to comprehend and His ways are mysterious. God is a Consuming Fire, a source of incomprehendable love. In some of my darkest times, I have felt that love cover me.

    For many years, I could not see this aspect of His character. I cracked the whip as an Ultra-Conservative SDA for 5 yrs, I was obsessed with behavior and reached a point of total mental/spiritual exhaustion. I witnessed many dear people follow the same pathway to despair. Many gave up on God altogether. I think anyone who teaches that perfection in the flesh is possible through lifestyle regimens, and church attendence are setting themselves and many others up for disappointment. We are TOO focused on ourselves and what we do or don't do.

    Anyone- even monkeys like me can render outward conformity and obedience, but God wants the heart- flawed and weak as it is. He loves us and in response He wants us to love Him.
    My utter helplessness is what drove me to the foot of the Cross. I saw my need for forgiveness and my NEED a Savior.

    SDA's have many wonderful truths, but to reflect on the 1888 message, to accept the New Covenant as it has been given in the person of Christ Jesus would be of great benefit. We are good at accepting Jesus death on our behalf, but not the perfect life He lived on our behalf because we are not capable of a flawless existence in and of ourselves.
    Perfection in this world is through Christ alone. Anyone who teaches otherwise is somewhat Anti-Christ and humanistic in their thinking. We cannot rely on ourselves. We claim to have a prophet, but do we really read her? She warns of self-sufficiency repeatedly.
    We became so focused on all her lifestyle recommendations that we missed the Grace in her writings!
    God never gives up on people unless they choose to step outside the relationship- even then I'm not sure God gives up- it's more like we give up on Him.

    People stumble. If we can get over the shock factor of that reality and stop gasping and gossiping when people mess up, I think we are far more suited to reach people.

    I'm still learning as I'm sure you are, but this is the conclusion I've arrived at in this point of my faith experience and in Christ, I found a solid foundation, a better promise. If I'm wrong, God will show me in His time. If I am a lost sheep as some have said of me because of my Grace-based theology, then I know My Shepherd is very good at finding strays, in fact, so great is His love that He leaves the ones who are already safe in the fold to go find the wanderers and carry them home. :o) What amazing love!!

  3. Preach sister! As always, you have such a strong testimony. Never stop sharing how Grace has transformed you, even if legalists call you a "lost sheep." Preach!

  4. Hey Trailady!

    First, I want to thank you for reading with interest and commenting in earnest on each (most) of the posts. I’m sure other writers appreciate it too. It's very gracious of you.

    Now to the subject at hand (I realized at the end that I have way too much to say about this; please forgive me). I'm not sure a theology of grace is specifically what's lacking in our tendency to make much ado about our own or each others' shortcomings. When we relate grace to the need to be less critical, we tend to think of grace as meaning something like "letting another off the hook". And then that leads to the debate of at what point does that become "cheap" grace… yada, yada, so on and so forth. And then comes the real travesty when someone tries to defend against the accusation of advocating a "cheap grace" (such an oxymoron) by saying something like "We all need to 'forgive' ('not condemn,' 'reach out to' or otherwise 'cut each other some slack') because inevitably we'll need the same from God or others someday—which in essence turns grace into karma. I'm more inclined to embrace Miroslav Volf's definition of grace as being the act of God—and challenge for all humanity to emulate—"giving more than one can expect to get in return," which in some ways has nothing to do with minimizing mistakes and maybe, on some deeper level, everything to do with it.

    I think "Glenn" (the mysterious, "Anonymous" one who likes to play both sides of an issue :-) might be on to something when he proposes that we may need to reassess, even re-imagine our ideas of "perfection." From what I understand, the NT Greek word translated "perfect" or "perfection" in the KJV is almost always more accurately interpreted 'whole' or 'complete'. Just this subtle semantic shift may have significant bearing on our understanding of God's expectations of us and others.

    I find your parenting metaphor, Trilady, particularly instructive in this. You're right: reasonable parents don't criticize, belittle, denounce, gossip about or otherwise harbor resentment toward their children for falling short of our ultimate hopes and dreams for them. Why? Because they're still learning, and we know this. We may bemoan the messes we are left to clean up; we may give them a stern talking to in order to impress upon them the gravity of the situation; we may even pop that behind to capture their attention and associate the memory of certain actions with almost certain pain; but we don't despise them. As in the instance of a child falling while learning how to walk, more often than not, a parent's primary concern is whether his/her little one is hurt. The trouble is that we don't allow this parental instinct to mature with our kids as they grow. We tend to either do away with it and expect our kids to be perfect, or we pervert it by becoming so indulgent that our kids never have to step up. Then we project those false alternatives on God and say that God has to be one or the other (a debate that, again, has very little to do with grace).

    Who would every use the language 'forgive,' don't condemn,' 'let her off the hook,' 'cut him some slack' to describe how a parent should respond to her/his child stumbling. It's just not applicable. And I believe it's no more applicable when we walk with God. "If anyone be in Christ she is a new creature." It's a whole new ball game (to switch metaphors real quick)! You're a daughter or son now, a "joint heir"—"and it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know we shall be like" our Heavenly Parent. So what if you screw up! That's what kids do. And as good parents, our more rational desires are that our children acknowledge the mistake, turn from it (repent) and attempt better, knowing they are likely to miss the mark again before hitting it. Could it be any different with God?

    Unlike some of us, I believe God's parental instincts toward us mature as we grow. As we succeed at hitting the mark at some things, C.S. Lewis would suggest that God rewards us by giving us even greater challenges—which means that at any given moment we're probably coming up short on a whole bunch of stuff we're just not 'big' enough to do yet. But isn't that how one builds muscle or skill at anything? In many ways 'wholeness' or 'completeness' are always ongoing, never accomplished. And like a good parent, God is patient with us every step of the way. Oh that we would learn to have the same patience with ourselves and our siblings (which perhaps has everything to do with grace :-).

  5. Melvin, I very much enjoyed reading your thoughts here.
    We are all on this journey together. :o)
    I miss the mark all the time, but God is always there. Amazing love!!