Mistakes Along the Way
Episcopal Diocese of Washington
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Bishop Mariann’s Blog
Thursday, October 18, 2012
“What do you do in a monastery?” the disciples asked the elder. And the elder answered, “Oh, we fall and we get up and we fall and we get up and we fall and we get up again.”
- Joan Chittister, Following the Path
It was a colossal mistake, the worst thing I could have said to someone I needed to impress. Even as the words came out of my mouth, I regretted them, and I would have done anything to turn back time long enough to start the conversation over. Even though we were speaking on the telephone, I felt exposed, as if all my vulnerabilities were on display for the world to see.
I hung up the phone fully convinced that the opportunity I had hoped for was going to pass me by, all because of what I said in that unfortunate conversation. Later that day, I took our sons to the movies, but all I could see on the screen was my inevitable failure. For days I felt numb. I tried to pray but couldn’t get past the shame.
Then it occurred to me: if I could lose what I hoped to gain because of one mistake, onemindless remark during a phone conversation, then it probably wasn’t for me anyway. For how could I keep from being human? How could I keep from making mistakes? I realized that I needed, that we all need, margins of error, places to make our mistakes without fear, so that we might learn from them and move on. As it turned out, I was right. I didn’t get the call, and as hard as it was to accept, I knew that it wasn’t mine.
“We will find our way through life one fall at a time,” Chittister writes, “one stone wall at a time, one blind spot at a time, one misunderstanding at a time, one fear at a time. “
“If the God who made us is perfect,” she goes on, “then that God knows that we are not. Because that God did not make us so.”
There’s a Japanese proverb that says, “Fall down seven times; get up eight.” That’s what we do, imperfect beings that we are. That’s how we learn and find our way.
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