Along the bumpy path leading to my middle years, and now that I am no longer running around with a swollen belly, changing diapers, and staggering about at 2 am to feed a baby, there have been pauses to think. It was difficult to pause with five busy children who were involved in a plethora of activities such as dance, band, orchestra, sports and other homeschooling activities. When they were all young and needy, the goal was to feed, clothe, love them and take care of their needs; after which, I would collapse, exhausted into bed. Rinse, repeat.
Throughout their young lives, I was dealing with a significant number of internal struggles, hovering around depression, obesity, self-loathing, insecurity and bulimic episodes……..my father used to tell me that I was born old and perhaps he was right. But, growing up as the eldest in my own dysfunctional family, much responsibility was levied on my shoulders–and for reasons I will not get into here, I struggled significantly. Maturing and walking with the One who forgives, helped me to give up resentments towards my parents for my place in the family. They did the best they could with what they knew–and really did a pretty good job of parenting. I know that my early struggles were preparation to withstand much more.
My mistakes are incredibly numerous and there are some in my life who are unable to forgive me for them. I cannot judge, as there are mistakes I have made that it has taken years to forgive myself. When we grow, change and evolve, others want to keep you in their little memory box, afraid to let you out for fear that you have changed or become more lovable.
I’m not a fan of making mistakes, not even little ones, and I’m not very good at immediately framing mistakes as “positive learning experiences.” But to err is human, and if we aren’t goofing up every now and then we aren’t growing. It took me a while to get to the point of not beating up myself for my own parenting mistakes. So, when I make a mistake now, I try and say to myself, “Thank goodness! Another one of those out of the way.” And then take some deep breaths, learn something, focus on my heart’s intentions, and celebrate my accomplishments.
Some mistakes I’ve made are small, run-of-the-mill things. I got something wrong in an article I wrote. I forgot to mail a bill. I had to learn about my poor gardening skills the hard way. But some of my gaffes have been more significant. Big relationship mistakes, mostly–being a young, immature wife wasn’t easy, not handling a divorce with grace and messing up the emotional lives of my kids. Some mistakes I’ve made, looking back from a very safe, emotionally recovered distance, still make me want to slap my head, kick myself, and say, “what was I thinking?”
I have heard that it is by going into the abyss that you discover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. Mistakes toughen us up, give us insight into our personality glitches, and provide the opportunity to examine our choices and experiment with making different ones. But they also expose our areas of development with floodlight intensity and can make us feel very vulnerable, fearful, intimidated, and insecure. That’s not a fun place to be, ever. Especially if we have the sick feeling we’ve been in that same place before.
There’s a fine line between spending too little and too much time evaluating mistakes that occur in life. Sometimes we’re too freaked out to admit anything has run amiss at all, and sometimes we spend way too much time in punishing self-loathing. Either path takes us away from the treasure of lessons, insights, and new possibilities that mistakes offer us.
I remember one particular time where I was fragile, broken and felt like a china cup ready to splinter into a million pieces. And one day, when my tears ceased to stop, I heard Him tell me that my tears were what softened the clay that would allow Him to reassemble me into something new and better. Living in that mire, it was difficult to believe–but He is so faithful and He began a wonderful healing process.
We all have cracks. Cracks caused by the carelessness of other people, cracks we created ourselves by making negative choices, or by making good choices and not having things turn out the way we expected. Cracks from when we have fallen, cracks caused by mistakes. Life, perhaps, has a tendency to twist over the same issue over and over again, and we may find ourselves stumbling over the exact same trouble spots in different forms throughout our lives. While we work on smoothing out those bumps and ridges, apply an artist’s eye to see how they enhance who we are–and God is the most incredible artist. I am no longer afraid to evaluate my mistakes and missteps with compassion and curiosity; and I am no longer afraid to then let them go.
Mistakes teach us a little something about ourselves, but only if we no longer cling to them. With empty hands, we can open ourselves to the warmth of His love, accept His forgiveness, and apply the lessons life’s mistakes provide. My prayer is that those close to me and those separated from me can experience this precious gift of forgiveness….and perhaps, reconciliation will occur.
Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.—Isaiah 1:18