So my previous post was about connecting with cards. I have been thinking about what I wrote and I thought I would do a quick follow-up, perhaps as a reminder of all my imperfections.
You see, I am really good at picking up a card and sending it to someone at a seemingly random time. But, when it comes to getting cards to someone for their birthday or remembering an anniversary or getting those little holidays I am really hit or miss. I am very cyclical or seasonal in this. Sometimes I do really well. I am organized with my cards, I have the whole family sign them and then I prepare them to be sent.
At other times I am really horrible. Sometimes I purchase cards, let’s say for the all the birthdays in the next month. Yeah! I think I am on the right track and am moving in a positive direction. When I get home from shopping and buzz around in the flurry of putting stuff away I set the cards on my desk. Then I, or one of my beloved family members, covers the cards up with mail or school papers or books or whatever.
Time then passes – a week or two weeks goes by and I make the time to clean off my ever cluttering desk. I start sorting and organizing and find, OH NO! There is one birthday that I completely missed. There’s another one that will pass before the US Post Office will be able to deliver the card. Ok, time to re-evaluate and reorganize. I fell short and I try again to do better.
I feel just awful for the missed birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. Now for some people that I know, they show so much grace and love to me. They are very forgiving and willing to show mercy when I miss things, and find myself needing to apologize.
There are others where receiving a card at the right time is almost an indicator of how much they are loved. A late card is interpreted to mean that I love them less. To me it’s not that I love them less, it’s just that I made mistakes in my scheduling or in my organization. I mess up, much more than I would like to.
Now it’s definitely the second case that is harder to deal with. My actions hurt that person more than the first. It is going to be harder for me to make amends with the second. It is dealing with the second that will bring a greater degree of discomfort.
It also seems that the second case is where there is a tendency for the past to be attached. Sometimes I feel like the moment I reach out to apologize, I will be confronted by the total judgements of all my actions. As if I will be handed a report card that reads: 8 cards delinquent in arrival, 13 cards acceptably on time, 4 cards with mediocre content, 3 cards lacked a real personal message, 1 card had a wet envelope, total grade F. You are a failure.
Now it does not really play out that way in reality but that is what it can feel like. When it does feel this way, it comes with a big heap of shame to top it all off. The weight of which just makes me want to put my head down and cry. It is as if I am asked to admit that my poor timing makes me an overall bad person. Generally this is the beginning of a quick downward spiral to a lot of negative thoughts about my value and worth.
Perhaps you can relate to my situation, and perhaps you have had interactions with people that have made you feel great shame for an infraction such as this.
Now, I am not trying to make myself out to be in the right. Truthfully, I am the one who missed the date. I made the mistake. I did. Actions have consequences and I will have to face them. It will not be fun, negative actions lead to negative consequences. I acknowledge that too. I am the one who will have to make changes for the future.
I know it seems like this post is kind of a downer today, but I just felt like I had to share my story with you, because there are some good truths that can be helpful in a situation like this.
Truth #1 – Making a mistake does not mean that we are bad people
We all make mistakes. If you are anything like me, it’s going to happen each and every day. That is ok. Each of us is still a precious treasure and an amazing miracle. God does not love you any less. God’s ways are to acknowledge the mistake and to repent for what we have done. Do you know how God responds to this? With LOVE and GRACE and MERCY! God opens His arms wide and says His mercies are new each morning, I make you as white as snow because I love you so.
Truth #2 – We do not have to allow it to stop us from moving forward
Feeling shameful about ourselves is a very dangerous place to be. First of all it can stop us in our tracks. It can make us want to sit and cower. It can make us want to turn and run away. It can make us fearful of taking any further steps forward. But we have to remember that God has laid a path for us. He is with us. He does not let go of us when we make that mistake. In fact, I believe He stands in front of and behind us coaching us on, cheering for us to keep going. God’s not looking for us to sprint, just to continue taking those baby steps.
Truth #3 – We can not control what another person thinks or does or feels
The truth is we can only control ourselves. Sometimes I even question my ability to do that. I am really helpless when it comes to controlling others. I can not make people love me. I can not make people forgive me. No matter how many times I say I am sorry. No matter what kind of restitution that I attempt to make. On occasion, the person just may be on a different time schedule than me. The painful reality is, if someone is bitter towards me for all of the mistakes I have made against them and I have exercised all of the options that I have I will not be able to change the situation.
Truth #4 – There is still something we can do – PRAY
Prayer is a wonderful gift. I can pray for the person who is hurting. I can pray that they would allow the truths of God to soak into their heart. I can pray that God would help me to have a deeply compassion heart even for my enemies and that I would be obedient to the things that He asks of me to do. I can ask God all of the questions that I have. I can role play my conversations with God during my prayer time and ask Him to direct my steps. I can call up the Spirit to give me those words when I need them. Just as easily as I can pray, you can do the same. If we are struggling with that, then we know where to start asking for help.
Beloved and Cherished Lord,
You know all of the circumstances that cause us frustration and make us feel shame. You know the big things and the little things. You know of all the relationships that we have that are filled with grace and the ones that are currently under tension. Lord, helps us through our baby steps. Thank you so much for cheering us on!
In Your loving name, Jesus’, amen.