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

Four Words That Can Change Your Day

The other day I was driving back home after dropping a friend at the airport.  On the highway someone merged in front of me into the right lane going about 30 mph.  There was another car in the left lane next to me so I had to slam on my brakes to avoid running into the creeper-merger.

I may have yelled the “i” word in frustration and anger.

As I eventually was able to pull into the left lane and speed past the offender I looked to my right and saw what appeared to be a young Somali woman hunched over the wheel, anxious, timid, and clearly unsure of where she was going.

And four words smacked me upside the head: Continue reading

Dear Movies About All of the Things in the Real World,

Dear Movies About All of The Things in the “Real” world,

I’m writing you to put you on notice.

I’m taking away your stars and giving you a rotten tomato.  You may get critical blah blah  for being “authentically raw”, but so what?  It’s too easy.  It’s like saying we need to hear Lindsay Lohan is behaving badly.  Again.

I don’t think so.

UnknownYou’re down and dirty, but I’m gonna take you out with a Ninja kick to your mojo and call your bluff.  Your world is not all there is.

Reality without redemption, you are dead to me.

Greed, sex, drugs, lies, betrayal, selfishness?  I know you’re everywhere, not just in the kingdom of Wall Street. I don’t need to be reminded.

I need instead, to see glimpses of another kingdom. Continue reading

Dance. Just for Today

I’m tired of significant and meaningful and reflective.  I’m tired of seriousness and sin.  I’m weary of North Korea, and Congo and terror in Boston.  I want someone else to be responsible for today.  And I feel like a terrible human being admitting that.

Just for today I want to dance in the kitchen and hug my kids, and write a thank you note and eat fresh berries.

A friend of mine who works tirelessly for justice in the ugliest parts of the world was, at one time, on a sailboat in a lovely tropical port.  She said she wrestled with the incongruity, the unfairness of the situation.  Why should she get to enjoy such a lovely respite while so many are fighting for survival, enduring violence, and oppression?  How could she accept the gift that is her relatively privileged life?

Continue reading

On Gossip and Ashes and Enough

I heard a really juicy bit of gossip the other day.  It was about someone many of you would know.  It was not favorable.  And it was really tempting to shout it from the rooftops like some ancient town crier, “Hear ye, hear ye!  Do you know what SHE did???!  Can you believe it??”

And, this is the terrible confession I have to have to make:  There was a small part of my dark shriveled prune pit heart that was… delighted.  Yes, delighted because it made me feel “better than”.  Superior.  Like I’m winning the spiritual points Olympics today.

Grace?  Who needs grace?  I’m better than someone!

And then it all came crashing down.  I read something by someone godly.  Much more Jesus-y than me, and getting a lot of attention for being Jesus-y.  And all of a sudden I felt worse than.  Worthless.  Not good enough for kingdom stuff.

How often do we walk into a room and determine our worth (and even the state of our relationship with God) by how well we stack up to others around us?  Do we look for those who are more clearly selfish, sinful, ungrateful, and breathe a sigh of relief that at least we’re not there?  Not that?  We’re better than someone.

Do I define “righteousness” as “better than”?  So “unrighteous” is “worse than”?

I read recently that theologian C.H. Spurgeon once said, “It is easier to save us from our sins than from our righteousness.”

So today we come to the cross and the ashes of this special Wednesday with as much honesty as we can muster.  It’s time to give up the illusion that our righteousness is anything other than filthy rags.   A time to come clean about our dirt.

We are an ashy mess.

Ashes – a gritty reminder of our sinfulness that says to the world, “This is who I am and what I want to repent of.”

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None of us are enough.

We’re never good enough to earn His favor.

But we’re never bad enough to be beyond the reach of God’s grace.

Somehow, in spite of it all, He’s still crazy about us, His stumbling, bumbling children.

We are, all of us, all covered in Ashes.  And nothing we do or don’t do today can make God love us any more.  Or less.  Than He does at this moment.

Lord have mercy.  On me.  A sinner.  A comparer.  An “older brother”.  A prideful striver, an image-manager.

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

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?

Three Challenges of Authenticity and Grace

The other day I made a confession here on the blog and then wrote, “There, now you know what a truly horrible, small-minded person I am.”  I meant it.  It was something I was embarrassed to admit.  And I truly want to change…but not always.

Authenticity.  It’s a high value these days.  It’s one of the core values of this blog.  And that’s a good thing mostly, I think.  For awhile, we as Christians were trained to pretend to “Look like Jesus” no matter how much we weren’t.  But then came a rash of young leaders who called us on it and it became cool to be authentic.  To be honest and specific about the ways we are a broken hot mess.

That in itself is a good thing, right?  But there are also some challenges at the intersection of grace and authenticity I think.

1.  Authenticity.  For some of us it’s hard to get to the starting line.  The challenge is finding relationships…community, if you will, where we can truly be honest about who we are…the good, the bad, the ugly.  It’s the risky challenge of just being willing to say, “Here’s my mess.”

2.  Grace.  For others, we can be brutally honest about our weaknesses, our failures, but the challenge is really knowing God’s grace to the core of our being…Knowing that nothing we can do can ever make God love us more or less than He does right now.  The hard thing is owning our sin, but not wallowing in our worminess.

3.  Change.  This is one that I fear I have to be aware of.  It’s wearing our authenticity as a badge of honor and stopping there.  Awhile ago I heard a preacher speak and he was very vulnerable.  You could almost hear the inaudible admiration from the people listening…”Oooh he’s so authentic!”  But here’s the thing…He didn’t go any further.  He expressed mild embarrassment, but is that repentance?  He told us what he had done, but not what he was doing to change.  It was like what he was doing was what I often do: image management.  “Confess” something safe, but make it so common that it falls in the category of “acceptable sin” that no one would really expect us to change.

Yesterday morning in church we did a spiritual inventory that we take every year, kind of like a physical check up but you don’t have to get into one of those white paper gowns and no one gets to see your weight (or the answers on your inventory).  At the end there were two areas where I was noticeably weaker than the others.   The thing is, I looked at these two areas and it didn’t bother me all that much (which is just another reason I’m a terrible person).  Is it possible to be too comfortable with being honest, and too secure in God’s love of me?

Psalm 52:1 says, “Why do you boast of evil…?  Why do you boast all day long, you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?”  The other day, I read this verse and I thought “Aha!  Is this what we’re doing sometimes?”

Our righteousness IS as filthy rags, BUT God throws our sins as far as the east is from the west when we come to Him AND calls us to be holy as He is holy.  All of this in the same Bible!  How can we get this straight?  That we are both wrecked and beloved at the same time.  And God loves us too much to want us to remain the way we are.

I believe we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, but not just over things like our dog dying or our mother-in-law’s car wreck.  I think we’re to be truly honest about the darkness in our lives, but truly sorry too, and truly committed to doing better and finding ways to help each other together.

The good news, as always, is that we’re not in it alone and we can’t do it alone.  “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.”

Which of the three challenges above do you struggle with the most? Authenticity, grace, change?  Or other thoughts?