A big, smiling welcome to you! This post is part of a series I’m working my way through in the month of October, called Swim Your Own Race. If you’d like to start at the beginning (it is a very good place to start, after all) you can do so, right here. I hope you enjoy diving in!
When I first started walking with Jesus, like truly involving Him in my life and aiming to follow His leading, there was one fact that got under my skin like no other.
I remember sitting over up a cup of coffee with a friend and mentor of mine, talking with her about how much I appreciated her counsel and advice in my life. I welcomed her advice and hoped she’d continue to help me follow Jesus wherever He would lead me. And I think these specific words probably came out of my mouth:
“I just don’t want to mess up.”
She looked at me, straight across those cups of coffee, and, knowing this would be tough for me to hear, very gently said, “You’re going to mess up.”
Oh, what a wrestling match of the soul that was for me to hear and receive those words!
I don’t like making mistakes. But let’s be honest — if we don’t like making mistakes, we might as well say we don’t like being human.
This is a challenging part of humanity – the truth that we are going to fall short.
But how do we handle the mistakes along the way as we continue to swim our own race?
In our family, we’ve taught our boys to apologize and to ask each other for forgiveness when they hurt one another. Although the apologies don’t always sound sincere, we encourage them to say what they’ve done wrong, and to say that they’re sorry. The other child is then supposed to say, “I forgive you.” After that, the matter should be done, they should both let it go, find a way to keep playing and move on. Tiger Tank usually says, “I forgiver you,” which we really enjoy hearing and the Hubs and I sometimes say to each other, too.
Often the first step in dealing with a big mistake is just apologizing. Sometimes this is the hardest part. Most of us don’t like making mistakes, and a lot of us don’t like admitting we’ve made a mistake when we do. After we apologize, we ask for forgiveness. It’s always up to someone else to decide whether or not to forgive, but if we are genuinely sincere in our apology and our request for forgiveness, we can rest knowing we’ve made our best effort to seek reconciliation.
When you’ve kicked over someone else’s Lego tower or unintentionally smacked their car with yours, the efforts at reconciliation usually need to continue into restoration. What can you do to make the situation right?
If we’re looking at situations from one human to another, the forgiveness process can be boiled down to a fairly simple number of steps. Although there are many situations where those steps are very hard to carry out.
But what about when we make a mistake and we feel like it’s the Lord we need to apologize to?
I shared the Message version of the encouragement from Hebrews 12: 1-3 the other day. Let’s look at it again here as we continue this conversation:
Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
Jesus is the only human who ever lived a mistake-free life. He is an example for us to follow after. His was a race worth studying. Every ounce of His story is a place for encouragement for your own. Watch how He ran the race, and do likewise!
When our kids make a mistake that involves following (or not following) the instruction of their parents, we still follow the forgiveness process, but there are sometimes other consequences for disobedience.
And we, the humans who make mistakes and disobey a Holy God, deserve some pretty significant consequences. But at the end of that mistake-free life, Jesus endured the cross, and in doing so He endured the punishment that we deserve for our mistakes. It’s hard to put into words — and were all the books in a thousand libraries just on this one subject, they’d still fall short.
The gift of taking our place on the cross… What can we say? It is glorious.
Now here we are, 2,000 years later, still swimming our races and making our mistakes.
Is the forgiveness process in relation to our Creator similar to that with the people around us?
I believe so.
Thanks to Jesus, we can turn to God again and again each day, to bring before Him the places where we fall short, to sincerely say we’re sorry, and to ask for forgiveness. Sometimes He leads us to do something with restoration in mind, and we do well to listen and obey His leading.
We have a little “mantra” in our home when we ask our children to follow our directions. We often tell them to “ICE” it.
This means we’re asking them to obey Immediately (I), Completely (C), and Enthusiastically (E).
Oh, the world of trouble I’d never face if I would obey the Lord immediately, completely and enthusiastically!
But friends, we will fall short. We will miss the mark. We will make wrong choices and face consequences.
The gloriously good news is that your race doesn’t end just because you make a mistake. Jesus paid the way for you to keep swimming! He paid the way for you to pause on the journey, turn to an infinitely Holy God and humbly ask for forgiveness, and He paid the way for you to follow His example, not losing sight of the finish line you’re headed toward.
Even if you fall short today friends, be encouraged that you can continue to swim your own race. Even the greatest of mistakes does not disqualify you from the forgiveness Jesus paid for! Keep swimming your own race today… and let your mistakes be a place for His goodness to shine even brighter in you.
P.S. I might’ve made a mistake yesterday, in posting a video that may have caused offense because some of the dancing in it was less than wholesome. No one complained, but I felt a nudge to just swap that video out for one that should not be visually offensive. I hope you will forgive me if I offended you, and I hope you took the time to dance in your living room to celebrate God’s goodness. His grace is so good… we do all make mistakes!