Tuesday, January 17, 2012

For When You Mess Up

About this time last year I was visiting the Promised Land. I had a whole list of places to see and touch and walk. Never did I anticipate these sights and steps to impact me so much.

At the Wailing Wall, women were praying, reciting, reading, and, yes, wailing. [I, being a good tourist, wrote a prayer on a pink post-it note, rolled it up and stuffed it in the wall, careful not to push another’s prayer out.] I had to fight for a brief moment at the wall—those ladies claimed their ground. I became emotionally overwhelmed and claustrophobic.

You see, I was there right after I had done something not so good. And at that point in my little, Grinchy heart, I wished for a place to go and cry and be repaired. I wanted it to be undone—like it never happened. But that’s the thing about life—it keeps moving on no matter how hard you will it to stop.

Esoteric conversations among ex-pats sometimes revolve around…mystery…How we can’t explain ourselves. Ya think you know a person [or yourself] and then you move overseas and enter a new world. Suddenly… you’re struggling to BE you. Sometimes you do things totally out of character. You get home and say, “Whoa. Who was THAT?!” in the store, on the street, in the car, at work. My friend once timidly and quietly told me, “I found myself doing things I never thought I was capable of. But now I know: any one of us is capable of doing anything.” I was stunned by her confession. She has a secret well of hurt and regret—one I never imagined beneath her love and joy.

Just this last week [in the States] I was driving and listening to TED TALKS. [TED: Ideas Worth Spreading—look them up. I’m slightly obsessed. Please know that they’re completely secular.] I listened to a talk by Kathryn Schulz entitled, “Don’t Regret Regret.” She makes the argument that we’ve built a society that’s taught us to “live without regrets.” But, she says, people who have no remorse for things gone badly are usually those who have suffered some kind of brain damage. That, if you are indeed fully functional, you will experience regret and have to learn how to live with it. She says that regret requires two things: a decision and an imagination. In our minds, we play over and over again the situation and imagine another ending. While I don’t agree with everything she says [she never mentions the need to be sorry, forgiven or restored], her last lines have caused me to revisit my “year ago” with a new heart:

“If we have goals and dreams and we want to do our best,
and if we love people and we don’t want to hurt them or lose them,
then we SHOULD feel pain when things go wrong.
The point isn’t to live without any regrets,
the point is to not hate ourselves for having them...
Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly—
it reminds us that we know we can do better.”

I hate my sinning heart. I hurt people. I fail to honor God. I build walls and carve out holes—not to tuck a tiny prayer in—but to house my secrets in its shadows. Psalm 38 has been the sincere cry of my heart: “My iniquities have gone over my head… My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness, I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning…” David, the man after God’s own heart, wrote these words.

I’ve had to stop what I was doing
and say that I was wrong.
I’ve been sorry and been forgiven,
and our Father continues to restore me.

So what happens when you mess up? Because you will, ya know. [Maybe you know because you already have.] I think we’re afraid to admit these things. I hope you know what His Word says about confession and repentance, and forgiveness and redemption. Count it a blessing to be humbled and broken and... wrong. Worse than regretting regret would be forgetting His [and others’] forgiveness. Remember that He’s continually saving us—not just that One time. What a joy to not wallow in yesterday, but press on for today. Be reminded that you don’t strive to be good at a religion, but rather daily engage in a Relationship.

I touched that Wailing Wall. I elbowed my way to the stones towering over men and women begging for mercy and miracles. They pray there because it’s supposed to be the gateway to the Holy of Holies.

You don’t have to fight your way to this wall,
as old and beautiful as it may be.
Just go to the foot of the Cross.
He’s saved room for you.


  1. ummm...so good, sarah. melt my heart, a little bit.

  2. excellent story and writing....
    (Jayme's friend)

  3. sarah, your stories are so interesting.
    Simply Martha

  4. Jordan, you're lovely. Thanks for reading AND commenting. loves.

    Kathy, I love Jayme. ANY friend of hers is a friend of mine. :) Thanks for reading and saying hello!!

    Martha, haha, thanks! I hope they're interesting in a good way! I appreciate you reading and letting me know that you are! :)

    Love, Sarah.


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