The Mistake about Mistakes

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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The man who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18b NIV)

Mistakes. I make 'em but I hate 'em. In childhood I believed that my mistakes were sin. Over the years I came to know that they are part of our humanness—and that the bigger sin is to fear our mistakes.

In childhood, my parents and teachers punished me for forgetting homework, poor grades, or classroom misbehavior. That taught me discipline, and on the surface that sounds positive. But punishment never taught me to love learning or behave well. It never taught me gratitude to God for talents and intelligence. What’s more, the learned absence of love and ingratitude followed me most of my life.

For fear of mistakes, I often failed to develop skills, failed to put talents and intelligence to work. But mistakes came anyway. An unintentional act got me fired from a job. I got another job, a good one, but was not consoled. I felt fear and shame. Then I took early retirement with restraints on household income. Despondent, I made the mistake of turning to alcohol. My wife’s losing her eyesight, a daughter losing her second marriage, another daughter caught up in alcoholism . . . each gave me more reasons to drink. Self-pity overwhelmed me. I drank alone, mostly at night, every night and nearly all night. No one would know how much I drank, I thought, though I slept during the day and neglected domestic duties and my wife.

Finally my family confronted me. Fighting mad (in the several meanings of that word), I agreed to detox, therapy, and AA, and it worked; I got sober and refocused. Now by turning my ego and fears over to God, God is teaching me about fearlessness and love. Nurturing gladly my love for my wife, I now can be a friend, a helper, and a comforting companion in her struggle with her disease. My alcoholic daughter and I have a new bond as we pursue recovery together. I cautiously support my other daughter and her former husband as they try, even in divorce, to be good parents to their children.

Most of all, I am learning to delight in what God provides. I have new joy in practicing skills and talents for their own sakes. I am beginning to understand Alexander Pope’s adage, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” Not only does God forgive mistakes, He plants a divine spark that allows us to forgive ourselves.