Mistakes. I do not like them. I do not like to be wrong. So I have worked really hard to avoid making mistake. Which really doesn’t work out very well but it feels safe to have tried. Have you have been around a kid who would rather do nothing than do something and make a mistake? It is pretty sad. The fear is so paralyzingly. It limits their growth and their ability to learn. I’ve lived there a lot of the time. I have been too afraid of failing to take any action so I take no action and wonder why I feel dead inside.
We were meant to live, to flow, to create, and to learn.
Raising children who are so vivaciously in this learning process highlights (painfully at times) what I believe about success, failure and the faithfulness of God. In the end no matter what my stated intention is, it is what I believe about failure comes through- my actions speak. As parents we teach our children everyday how to react to all of life, including mistakes.
Meet the Robinsons is a wacky movie about a young boy inventor. At the dinner table one evening an invention goes haywire and creates a huge mess. The boy bows his head in shame as the crowd sits in stunned silence. Then an unexpected thing happens. They celebrate his failure. They clap, they yell, “Great failure!”, and encourage him to keep trying. The boy is shocked and greatly impacte. He goes on to be a great inventor.
My husband and I watched that cartoon before we had kids and it shaped a desire in us to celebrate learning and encourage growth. The more common reaction to failure is disgust, annoyance, disappointment, and shame. None of these reactions empower change. Most of us know when we mess up. Just like in the story, we don’t need everyone at the dinner table to tell us the invention didn’t work. We can see that. Often what we can’t see is the way out.
God is faithful. God is faithful means that when I fail He has made a way forward for me. This doesn’t excuse the failure. The mess at the dinner table didn’t go away because the family cheered. What it means is that God will be faithful and offer a way through the mess.
I remember a year or so ago when one of my kids chose to play with his toys rather than clean them up. I had given the “Pick up, lunch in 15 minutes” warning and no action other than playing was taken. Lunch time came and there was still a mess. Now he was upset and afraid he’d miss lunch. I was upset that he had ignored me and that he was now crying instead of cleaning up the mess. He were so afraid of missing out and so overwhelmed by the mess that he could not move. I remember being angry until I saw that fear. It was a lightbulb moment. He didn’t need to be told how he had failed he needed someone who had hope.
I stopped midway through my, unhelpful “Stop crying and pick up this mess”, lecture and took a breath. I forgave my four year old (forgiveness is important even if it seems silly or “not their fault”- just forgive. It makes a difference) and then I asked some questions.
“What is the problem?”
“Why is this too hard?”
“How can I help?”
I asked them one at a time, letting him answer each one. I found out he thought the problem was huge. I found he thought he was responsible for the organizing of the whole room. He was overwhelmed by the problem. Once he had a little help and a clearer perspective we got the mess picked up. WONDERFUL.
That’s what God does. He is so faithful. He is not overwhelmed by our mess. He is not angry. He is the answer. Look at Him. Whether it is a mess at the dinner table or toys on the floor or angry words we have spoken or whatever, there is a way through the mess. There is hope. We can trust Him to be faithful. He makes seeds grow. He can cause beauty to bloom in our hearts. Our job is to turn our hearts to trust and believe. It is from there that change can happen and we are able to clean up and go on to create something beautiful from the mess.