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Mistakes are Wonderful Opportunities to Learn

The title is a quote from one of my favorite parenting authors, Jane Nelson. She believed in learning from mistakes so much that she told us that when sending her kids off to school with good wishes and encouragement she always wanted to tell them, “Go, make lots of mistakes and learn from them today.” She wanted to say that and didn’t, because it probably would have sounded as strange to her kids as it sounds to many adults.

Learning from my mistakes could be the theme for my experience in a Lutheran Musicians workshop this Saturday. (Sharlene and Spencer were there too.) I think I was one of the only people in the group who was not a trained musician or singer. Pastors were invited, though, so I took the chance that I might learn something and wasn’t too worried about appearing foolish.
The assigned readings for this week speak to making mistakes and looking foolish too. If you’ve ever worried that you cannot be forgiven or ever feared that you’re not doing your job well because someone complained, the readings from Genesis 3 and Mark 3 may be encouraging to you too.

I was happy to learn that Jewish scholar often talk about the humor in Genesis. Christians seem to take it all so seriously and all too often, take it literally. We tend to think that Eden was the same as perfection. A quick look at chapters 2 and 3 of Genesis shows that even Eden was a work in progress. Our Creator experimented a bit before making another human being. Life in Eden could not have been perfect because there were curious humans, made in the image of God, who were told about a tree that contained knowledge and then told not to eat from it. It’s a great plot for a teen misadventure movie. Throw in a talking and very crafty serpent and you could have predicted the outcome we read about: disobedience and punishment.

It seems Eden was not quite perfect and the grown-up Adam and Eve had to leave home to begin their own families and make new mistakes. In the first chapter of Genesis God said that creation was “good,” even “very good,” but not mistake-proof. That has not changed. God loves us AND we sin.
If you’ve ever been called “crazy” or really out of touch, know that you are in good company. In Mark 3 the people said Jesus had gone out of his mind (verse 21) and that he was a demon or had unclean spirits (verses 22 and 30). People did not understand him, not even his immediate family, and so they assumed something had to be wrong with him.
That hasn’t changed much either. We may even ask ourselves if we’re strange or off track when people complain or fear us. Sometimes we may be responding to the wrong spirits and treating them like God. (Remember the part about making mistakes?) At other times though, following Jesus is so counter-cultural that people just won’t get it and they won’t understand you.
So, if you’ve made mistakes or had people wonder about your sanity or cleanliness, try not to fear because Jesus counts you as family. “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3: 35).  We won’t do it perfectly, but we are invited to keep trying.

Thanks be to God! Pastor Melissa

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