When Mistakes Have Been Made and You Want to Hide

I’ve titled this series “When Mistakes Have Been Made”, but I’m thinking that may minimize what we’re talking about and what many of us experience.  Maybe the title should be something more like “When you’ve messed up messier than Lindsay Lohan.” or “When your sin seems like a toxic waste dump”.

The problem is most people are doing the best they can.  They’re trying really hard to do the right thing.

Sometimes as a leader you make an error in judgement that hurts many like friendly fire.  Other times you feel like you’re walking through a land mine of personal sin. But you long to do better.

Whether it’s your personal choices, or identifying with a community that has behaved badly, sometimes you just want to hide. I’ve written about silence and lament, but clearly there’s more.

When I make mistakes I think I want to hide, but I realize I really want something else.

This is a note I framed that Katy wrote when she was about 4 or 5 years old.

IMG_3323 In case you can’t decipher it it says,

“Do not come in! P.S. I will be under the covers.”

In other words, I’m hiding, but I really want to be found. I want you to find me and love me no matter what I’ve done or how bad I’ve messed up. 

Isn’t there a part of all of us that feels that way? A desire to be known. Found. Accepted no matter how big the mistake. No matter how “not good enough” we feel.

I’ve been thinking lately that I should hang another picture underneath this note.

picture of the Samaritan woman at the well. The woman trying to hide in plain sight, going to the well in the middle of the day – like an obese person shopping at Walmart at midnight – so she wouldn’t be shamed by critics.

It struck me recently when I was teaching on this passage… What is it that she runs back and tells everyone after her encounter with Jesus? What impacted her the most? “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out.” (John 4:29 MSG). He saw her and He still accepted her. She mattered to Jesus.

Just a reminder. In case you’re feeling like you’re under the covers and no one knows, you’re wrong. God knows. He sees. He loves you. No matter how “not good enough” you are.

 

When Mistakes Have Been Made and You Don’t Know What to Do

I vividly remember the second time I ever saw my husband, John.

He was up in front of the congregation at the church I was attending. He was the youth pastor, fresh out of seminary and it was his first time preaching. He was leading the congregation in reading the morning Scripture passage responsively – him one verse, us the next. The problem was he was reading from one Psalm and the congregation was reading from another – the correct one – the one printed in the bulletin.

After a few awkward, “off” responses that left people confused, he stopped and said, “Have you ever made a really big mistake in front of a lot of people?”

I may have fallen in love with him at that moment. A leader who can own his mistakes and move on is rare.

But some mistakes are much bigger than others.  Sometimes owning our mistakes is complicated and the consequential damage can seem irreparable. Continue reading

Two Responses to What Lies Beneath

On my list of gifts, one that recurs often is “fresh snow” (Lou Malnati’s pizza is also a top runner).  Snow is as magical as fairy dust to me.  It’s a good thing I love it, because I live where there’s a lot of it.

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As I write this, here in Minnesota it’s snowing.  Again.  Like it does just about every three days for the six months we call winter.

It’s hard to believe, but a day is coming when it will start to melt.  And when it does we move from “Winter”, not to “Spring” as they do in North Carolina, for example, but to “Butt Ugly”.

While the cherry blossoms are exploding around the tidal basin in Washington D.C. and the Bluebonnets are dancing across the hills of Texas, the gorgeous white crystals that have been blanketing everything in Minnesota start to mushify (yes, that’s a thing), exposing trash from last fall, like gum wrappers and a single tennis shoe, and the mitten someone lost. I’m still hoping my keys that disappeared on a walk around Lake Harriet five years ago will turn up.

origin_3142410504photo credit: chicagopublicmedia via photopincc

I love snow when it’s new and fresh.  It’s always been a visual reminder to me of God’s grace, and grits in Louisiana.  It just comes.  Snow, like grace, is not something we work for or make happen.

But the “Butt Ugly” season is a visual reminder too. It’s a reminder that while I can receive the gift of forgiveness and mercy for the ugliness of sin in my life, I need to be careful that I don’t just bury it without dealing with it. Kind of like that email that’s going to be hard to respond to so you put it in a file to respond to later.

What do I do with the trash that lies beneath? Continue reading

When a “Good” Fight Goes “Bad”

The other day I wrote about “good” fights.  The times when somehow, against all odds, and all our emotion, and in spite of our bent towards holding grudges, with God’s help, we address conflict and come out on the other side…Maybe more whole.  More compassionate.  With a better understanding of grace.  With a little clearer picture of redemption.

I outlined some steps that have been helpful to me, but…”1,2,3 steps” are always dangerous.  I really wish we lived in a “1,2,3 voila!” world, but we don’t.

What about when a “good fight” goes bad?  

Many years ago when I was first learning about what Jesus would ask of me regarding conflict I had a situation with a neighbor friend involving our kids.  I really, truly felt I had gone through each of the steps to handle our disagreement in a healthy way.

I prayed like crazy!  I examined my heart and thought I owned my part!  I was calm for Pete’s sake!!    I was warmly assertive and humble, darn it!

We sat at my kitchen table and you know how she responded? Continue reading

“That” Person

I’ve thought a lot about this.

If I ever become an actress (Don’t laugh.  It could happen!), and I have a scene where I have to cry on cue, no sweat.  I’ve got this one covered.  Not because I’m particularly weepy (I’m really not at all, you know).  But because all I’ll have to do is think of “that person.”

You know.  “That person”.

I’m betting you have one too.  The person who won’t forgive you.

Or the one you thought loved you, but then betrayed, or rejected, or ignored, or walked away from you.  Or the one who pronounced a judgment that you’ve let define you.

Or the child you love who is making destructive choices, far from Jesus and you can’t control them or fix it and your heart is breaking.

And all it takes is for you to hear a certain song that brings back memories, or drive by a place where you used to feel welcome, or to accidentally see them.  Or not at all.

Continue reading

Hungry for More Than Christmas Cookies

Today I was supposed to go to Weight Watchers.  Instead I made Christmas cookies.

And by that I mean I made Jeans Bars, so named because they’re guaranteed to make your jeans tight.  Yeah.  I know, I know…

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But, it got me to thinking about the food I need far more than Christmas cookies.

And the God who has given to all of us who are hungry and thirsty for that “more”…

Continue reading

“That” Person

I’m taking a little August sabbatical, so I’m reposting some entries that you’ve seemed to like from awhile back.  If you’re newer to the blog and know others who might be encouraged, I’d love it if you’d pass along the link.  

I’ve thought a lot about this.

If I ever become an actress (Don’t laugh.  It could happen!), and I have a scene where I have to cry on cue, no sweat.  I’ve got this one covered.  Not because I’m particularly weepy (I’m really not at all, you know).  But because all I’ll have to do is think of “that person.”

You know.  “That person”.

Continue reading

How to Write a Better Marriage Story than TomKat

Dear Max and Emily,

What a picture of joy!  It was a hot Minnesota summer afternoon and there was laughter and dancing and prayers and great hopes for your future together.  You were surrounded by people who love you.

So…right.

You did a lot of hard work to get to this place.  You did the pre-marital counseling thing and the financial seminar thing, and you really tried to honor God in every way as you walked towards marriage.

And now you’re here.  You’re married.

But the news these days is filled with stories of TomKat and John Edwards and Kim Kardashian, and Arnold Swarzenager.  And a thousand  million more examples of infidelity and “irreconcilable differences” and custody battles.  Disheartening, eh?

Why do you think you’ll be different than Kim and Arnold and whoever?  What will give you an edge so you won’t be another bad statistic in a few years.  Or 15?

Continue reading

To my Friends wounded by the Church

Dear Friends wounded by the Church,

As I write this, each of your faces come to mind and tears fill my eyes.  For you.            And for me.  Because I am one of you.

Maybe it’s because I am that you’ve felt safe to share your pain with me.

You’ve experienced exclusion,

poorly handled conflict,

shaming,

power struggles,

dishonesty,

truth-telling with out grace or hope of redemption

from a church you’ve loved.

And a church I’m sure would say is trying to do its best.

But I think of the particular circumstances each of you have endured at the hands of people who say they love Jesus and mostly I just can’t believe it and I want to rail at the injustice and shake “someone” and make it right, and undo the pain.  But instead, maybe I could tell you a story.

Last summer when I was on a bike ride through my neighborhood on a beautiful warm breezy day, my shoelace got tangled in the gears of my bike and I swerved and was stuck and took a wicked bad fall, gashing my knee gruesomely and dripping blood everywhere leaving quite a trail of evidence for the CSI folks should they choose to investigate.  It felt scary and unexpected and I felt out-of-control.

To add to my humiliation, a bunch of my friends, men, women, and children, were out in their front yard and witnessed the whole awkward debacle.  And I couldn’t even get up because my shoelace was still tightly tethering me to my gears.  The whole group of them ran over to me all concerned and one of them ran back to get a wet towel and a super-hero bandaid which was so sweet.

For days and weeks and months, that wound was tender and though it scabbed over, it got easily bumped and would start bleeding all over again.  I’d experience set-backs in the healing process and I learned to not be around the people who would carelessly stumble into me and my fragile wound.  Instead, for awhile, I needed to choose gentle friends and counselors who loved me and would be patient with my ugly scab and listen to the story of how it happened.

It was some of those same people who, as I began to heal, were able to help me ask about my part in the wounding and where God was, and what He might be teaching me.  In the process I realized that my fists were clenched a lot – clenched in determination to fix things quickly.  And they helped me to unclench them and patiently trust Jesus to do His work.

I believe we get better if we want to.  But today, I still have a very noticeable scar that will probably never disappear.   This scar is my reminder to be careful, wear my helmet, and try to be gentle with other riders.  Oh, and tie my shoes more tightly.

The other day, a friend who’s recently been hurt and disillusioned by the church said, “I don’t see how you have hope and why you keep showing up.”  The church does, often, make me sad, but it’s not the church I trust in.  It’s Jesus.

To my many friends who, like me, have been wounded by the church I would say don’t give up on Her.  Because Jesus hasn’t given up on Her.  Or you.  Or me.  And we are the church.

Speak the truth.  Be gentle.  Look for Jesus.  Admit your own brokenness.  Forgive.  But don’t give up.

For whatever reason, Jesus has said the Church is His Plan A for loving the world.

Ahh but we’re a messed up bunch, aren’t we all?  So it’s a good thing that included in Plan A is  the cross and forgiveness for all of us.

Have you been wounded by the church?  What has God used to help you heal?

Three Ideas for Dealing with Mice and Dirty Little Secrets

I see myself as a pretty darn adventurous person.  I love a challenge.  I’ll go anywhere in the world and I’m open to eating bugs.  Daughter Maggie and I were finalists to compete in the Amazing Race last year.  And I want my second career to be as a spy, for which I’ve already prepared by spending hours at the Spy Museum in D.C. and doing a simulation bomb location exercise.  Learning to hot wire a car is on my bucket list.  I’m just sayin’…I think I’ve got some game.

But, there are two things I don’t do.

Snakes and mice.

I’d jump out of an airplane if I had to, but look at, much less empty, a mouse trap?  No way.  Fortunately this has not been an issue as we have not had mice to deal with.  Until we got home from vacation this week and discovered evidence of one in a kitchen drawer.  Nowhere else (and believe me I went over the house with a magnifying glass, inspecting any tiny piece of lint to make sure it wasn’t a mouse dropping).

Anyway, we set out multiple traps in the kitchen around and in said drawer.  The next morning I left John a bazillion notes reminding him to check and deal with any corpse that might have appeared and I carefully skirted around the kitchen with my eyes averted from anything close to the killing field.

It’s not like I wasn’t vaguely aware there might possibly be carnage.  I just didn’t want to face it.  To deal with the ugliness.

Recently I referred to a message I had listened to about comparison that Andy Stanley preached and I was forced to face a mouse corpse.  He talked about the land of “er” and “est” where when we compare and don’t measure up we either hate the other person or hate ourselves.  Near the end, he asked a question :

Is there anyone you would secretly be glad to see fail?

It totally rocked me because immediately two people from different parts of my life, who I haven’t thought about in awhile came to mind!  No, no one reading this (honest).  And before you get sidetracked and all judgmental, ask yourself that question.

It freaked me out. “Why?” I asked myself.  “Is this born out of comparison?  Competition?  Insecurity?” And “What do I do with this? (Besides confess it and ask God to change my heart).  It was a very ugly mouse corpse I couldn’t avert my eyes from.

The first step for us in catching the mice was facing the evidence.  Acknowledging they were there.  I was ticked at Andy for asking the question that made me even admit the death in me, but once I realized the truth I couldn’t just leave a drawer full of “mouse poop.”

The second step has been figuring out how it got in.  For my “mouse” I’ve been asking the questions above and have realized they definitely squeezed in through the door of pride and comparison, but it’s also complicated by the pain that comes when someone succeeds at your expense or hurts you personally while getting what they want.  Perhaps this mouse snuck in in the moments when I wasn’t vigilant about living out of the security of God’s lavish love and delight in me…confidence in His win/win power to bring about good no matter what.

The third step has been killing the mice and, most importantly getting rid of the dead corpses.  I’m fine with steps one and two, but this one….?  Could I please just jump out of an airplane?  

Instead I picture both of the people who came to mind.  This morning I read, “Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge.  I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”  I picture the three of us, together, huddled beneath God’s wings.  His beloved children, all three of us dependent…taking refuge in His mercy.  I am truly moved by this image as I sit with it.  It helps me.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Is there anyone you would secretly be glad to see fail?                                            Are there ways that have been helpful to you in facing and dealing with the mouse corpses in your life?