Mistakes are part of what it means to be on mission with Jesus.
How do I know this? Read the Gospels and look at the dozens and dozens of mistakes that the disciples make as they try to follow Jesus. Mess up, after mess up, after mess up. Confusion on top of confusion. Mistakes galore.
How else do I know this? Because I have experienced this more often in the last few months of my life than I would like to admit. And these last few months have been filled with my wife, my community, and I making attempts to be on mission with Jesus.
Why is this the case? Why do we seem to make a bunch of mistakes when we try to be on mission with Jesus? I think there are two primary reasons:
- Following Jesus Is Risky — To be on mission with Jesus means that we put our safety and comfort aside for what really matters. And what’s that; what really matters? God’s will, that’s what. And what is God’s will? Friends, this is not trick question and it’s not that complicated. Really. From the beginning to the end of the Bible we see it. Namely, God’s will is to be involved with reconciling all things to God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5.19). In God’s economy there nothing of more worth than this! This goal is worth risking everything. And as we risk stuff, we will make mistakes. Maybe we’ll risk the wrong thing. Maybe we’ll focus our attention in the wrong place. Maybe we’ll hurt lots of feelings by focusing on one thing and not on another. The point is this: being on mission is risky and with risk comes mistakes.
- Following Jesus is Messy — If being on mission with Jesus means being involved in the reconciliation of all things to God in Christ, then this is going to be messy. Why is that? Simple: fixing broken relationships is hard. Just think about the last time you hurt someone and needed to make things right with them. How’d that go? Was it easy? Was it nice and tidy? Probably not. I’m sure it was a mess. And in the midst of that mess we’re going to make a ton of mistakes. We just will. We’ll try our best and we’ll still mess up. We’ll have the best intentions and yet we’ll still hurt people that matter to us. We’ll be actively engaged in reconciliation and we’ll actually damage the person or people we’re trying to reconnect with. And our mistakes will be in our behavior, our words, and our postures. Reconciliation = mistakes. That’s a universal law right there with gravity.
So there are a few responses to making mistakes:
- Pretending — We can act like we’re perfect and that we never, ever make mistakes. Some of us are so used to doing this that we don’t even recognize it anymore. It’s just part of our lives. We lie. Let’s just call it what it is.
- Shutting Down — We make mistakes. We try again. Then we make more mistakes. Then we try. Mistakes. Try. Mistakes. Etc. So, eventually we just quit trying. We shut down. We quit.
- Getting Defensive — So we make some mistakes and some of us defend ourselves. Maybe we’ll make some excuses. Maybe we’ll tell the person or people we have hurt all the reasons that they are wrong about how they feel and that the mistake we made is actually not really a mistake at all. If this sounds familiar to you, then you’re a lot like me. Yay for you!
- Becoming Humble — This is the goal that we should all be shooting for. When we make mistakes we ought to humbly accept our responsibility and begin to make amends. We shouldn’t lie. We shouldn’t quit. And we shouldn’t get defensive. Instead, we should be humble and seek to continue the reconciliation process.
And the great news, of course, is that if we’re humble we can begin to learn how to make less mistakes. Now don’t get me wrong; we’re always going to make mistakes. We aren’t perfect. But we can begin to learn how not to make the same mistakes over and over again.
In so doing we’ll hurt the people we love and are trying to be reconciled with a bit less. We’ll build trust. We’ll demonstrate our love. We’ll embody the good news of Jesus. And we’ll begin to engage more fully in doing God’s will of reconciling all things to himself in Christ.
Some of this learning will be natural, trial-and-error type of learning. Some of it will be gained through studying. And much of it will be through listening to people vastly different from us so that we can learn from various perspectives.
Mistakes aren’t going away. So we better figure out what to do when we make them!
Friends, how do you deal with making mistakes? What role do humility and learning play in that process?