Sorry, my mistake

Image by Tumisu, from Pixabay

At first, I was shocked.

The sight of a Cabinet Minister making a rude gesture to a crowd of people.  Surely, she should have known better.  But, it was her response that most interested me;

“I should have shown more composure but am only human”

(Andrea Jenkyns)

What we, the general public, don’t know is the stress she was under, the background to her actions and her “backstory” – also, I need to point out, this is a no politics blog!

What the incident and her subsequent comments got me thinking about, was “owning our mistakes.”

Let’s face it, we all make ‘em.

The slip of the pen.

The bad moment when we snap because somebody says something

The time we are in a rush, and a careless driver cuts in front.  One of the reasons I don’t wear a dog collar when driving is, it has a tendency to get a little tight whilst I let off steam at other drivers!

As the foreman in the factory where I worked used to say “the man who never made a mistake, made nothing”

Perhaps, at some level, we can all use the defence;

“I should have shown more composure but am only human”

So, what do I mean when I say “owning our mistakes”?  I mean, to take responsibility for your mistake.  Be prepared to admit your failure. 

So often, people want to deflect and evade responsibility.  Pass the blame is not a new game, just read the story of Adam and Eve.  Adam blames Eve.  Eve blames the serpent.  The serpent hasn’t got a leg to stand on.

Perhaps, the world would be a different place if Adam had said to God, “I am sorry, I gave in to temptation.  I broke the rules and will have to live with the consequences of my choice.”

What I also see is that when people “own their mistakes”, they find forgiveness.  King David, when faced with his actions that led to the death of Uriah, responds;

I have sinned against the Lord

(2 Samuel 12 vs. 13)

David owns his mistake and recognizes that, ultimately, he has broken God’s laws.  There are consequences to be faced, but David does receive forgiveness. 

There are lots of reasons why we need to own our mistakes and a few stood out for me in my reflections. Firstly, our mistakes are great teachers.  We learn more from our mistakes and failures than we do from our successes.

Secondly, owning our mistakes, is a demonstration of personal integrity.  Integrity is the quality of honesty.  A leader who blames everyone else and accepts no responsibility, lacks integrity and is soon believed untrustworthy.      

Finally, our mistakes, if we are prepared to own them, bring us to the place of grace.  I may not have made rude gestures to a crowd of people or plotted the death of someone.  I have, however, made plenty of mistakes.  If I am prepared to own my mistakes, seek God’s forgiveness and ask for God’s help I find forgiveness and newness of life.  As the Apostle John writes;

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 

(1 John 1 vs. 8 -9)

I think we all need to be prepared to own our mistakes.

Which way Lord?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

A Greek Philosopher called Heraclitus is quoted as saying;

The only constant in life is change

At some level, he is right.  We are all in the process of change because, every day, we are one day older.  Our bodies never stop changing throughout life, and even beyond (bit morbid – sorry!).  Some changes we can help and some are beyond our control. 

As I have been thinking about change, I have also reflected, that some change is good and other changes less so.  Some change I readily embrace, and some leaves me feeling unsettled and uncertain.  Some change, I choose and other changes are forced upon me by circumstances.

This was really brought home to me the other day. 

We are in the process of moving.  At the end of this month, I will be leaving the Church I have been privileged to serve for the last 14 years.  As with most ministers, when we leave our job, we leave our homes, our local support networks and our familiar surroundings.  The contacts and responsibilities we have built up, are laid down.  We do this so that we can fully enter life in a new setting and, hopefully, avoid the pull of the past.

I am discovering that, this is not an event, it is a process that needs to be gone through. 

So, as part of the process, I went through my diary of appointments from August onwards.  I took out church and deacons meetings.  Housegroups.  Prayer meetings.  Responsibilities. School governor meetings.  I took out parade services.  Items that needed to be dealt with by a certain date were the next to be deleted.  As I deleted, I prayed and handed the people, the situations, the joys and the sorrows over to God, I released them into his care.

For the first time in 14 years, I had a blank diary!

I can imagine a certain individual (and she may even read this blog!) who will be saying “and how did that feel?”. 

My response would be “unsettling.” 

Please, do not misunderstand me, I am really excited about the future. I am looking forward to the move and, I know, the reality of ministry says, the diary will soon get filled again.  But, in the meantime, the blank page is unnerving and leads me to ask the question “what now God?”

Yesterday, I was at a gathering where a prayer was shared by William Sloan Coffin (great name) that seemed to sum up a lot of how I am feeling at the moment.  I share that with you and hope it speaks to you too;

O God, whose mercy is ever faithful and ever sure, you are our refuge and our strength in time of trouble, visit us, we beseech thee—for we are in trouble.

We need a hope that is made wise by experience and is undaunted by disappointment.

We need an anxiety about the future that shows us new ways to look at new things but does not unnerve us.

As a people, we need to remember that our influence was greatest when our power was weakest.

Most of all, we need to turn to you, O God,

and our crucified Lord,

for only his humility and his strength can heal and free us.

O God, be our our sole strength in time of trouble.

In the midst of anxiety, grant us the grace to count our blessings—the simple ones:

health,

food,

sleep,

one another,

a spring that is bursting out all over, a nation which, despite all, has so much to offer so many.

And, grant us to count our more complicated blessings: our failures, which teach us so much more than success;

our lack of money, which points to the only truly renewable resources, the resources of our spirit; our lack of health, yes, even the knowledge of death,

for until we learn that life is limitation,

we are surely as formless and as shallow as a stream without its banks.

Send us forth into a new week with a gladsome mind, free and joyful in the spirit of Jesus Christ.

Amen.

(William Sloan Coffin, Riverside Church)