"Measure twice, cut thrice!" That's the motto in my house. If you've ever asked me what I've been up to outside of work, I've probably said something like, "oh, just working on my bathroom." It has been a home improvement project that has lasted three years this Summer. I have an entire Facebook photo album devoted to it called "who needs a bathroom anyway?" which I haven't even updated in a year because if I add more photos, it will just remind people that I haven't finished yet.
The truth is, I have no idea what I'm doing. I know what I want it to look like and what materials I want to use, but I'm learning all the skills as I go by watching Youtube videos and reading the instructions that come with the parts. One of the reasons it has taken so long is that as I move on to another part of the project, I realize I need yet another tool. Or I get to a corner and realize I need to so something different to make the edges line up nicely. But the worst thing I do is get in a hurry and measure wrong. Sometimes that even leads to tearing out an entire ceiling that I had just recently installed ... but that is a whole story of its own. The bottom line is, I wasted time and resources on a do-over.
I don't think I'm alone in saying the same kinds of mistakes happen in other aspects of my life, too. Sometimes I rush to speak and end up saying something wrong or hurtful. Sometimes I don't live up to a promise I've made. Often I get angry about something that really isn't in my control or isn't nearly as bad as I've allowed it to be in my head. Like the bathroom, I end up using time and emotional resources trying to make up for thoughtless mistakes.
Luckily, the unlimited resource we have available to us is God's grace and forgiveness. In the Gospels we read about the disciple, Peter, who promises to stay with Jesus and then goes on to deny him three times. As you read the story in John 18:15-27, you might feel like Peter has made the mistake of a lifetime. How could Jesus possibly forgive him for this?
Instead of casting Peter out, in John 21:15-17 Jesus builds Peter's confidence and prepares him to go out into the world and be the new church. This is what God does for us every Sunday in worship and what we are called to do for each other as we go out into the world, being God's hands and feet.
I've made a lot of mistakes working on my house, but each time I do, I learn something new, develop another skill, and move on to be better at it. Maybe the next project won't take as long.
When we make mistakes in our lives, we can take those opportunities to learn, to be more mindful, to get better at thinking before we speak or act. Maybe in our next difficult situation, our response will be better. Our do-overs might still take extra time and emotional resources, but we never have to worry about running out of God's grace.
If only I had an unlimited supply of drywall ...