It’s weird that I’ve spent so much of my life afraid of making mistakes. After all, in a certain sense my life itself was a mistake.
I remember the day my dad first told me. I was about twelve. He sat across from me in the red dust of our backyard, smoking, and told me the story of my unlikely birth. He didn’t say it angrily or meanly, just factually: that he and my mom never really intended to have kids, that my mom’s pregnancy was a total shock to them both and they weren’t really sure what to do.
In my dad’s version of the story, my life was saved by A Course in Miracles, this little blue book he and Mom were reading together at the time. The Course book says everything that happens to you is the result of a subconscious choice you made, an experience through which God teaches you. So Mom and Dad, informed by these ideas, said, “What the heck. Maybe this was meant to happen.”
I ran into the house and slammed the door behind me. My dad yelled after me how glad he was they had chosen to have me, how they had never regretted it, but in that moment, all I heard was that I was unwanted. I wanted to have been loved and welcomed from moment one, my existence eagerly hoped for and anticipated.
Maybe I somehow knew before he said it. Maybe he told me this story because I asked; I don’t remember how the subject came up in the first place. Maybe it explains a lot about me. How early on did I make it my mission to please people? Is this why I couldn’t handle losing games or making less-than-perfect grades? Why I was convinced new acquaintances wouldn’t like me, which quickly became a self-fulfilling prophecy?
I don’t blame my parents. I don’t blame my dad for telling me the story. The burden of self-justification is by no means unique to my life. Sooner or later, we all seem to learn the lie that we will never be loved for who we are.
The truth was in that little blue book: I am a miracle. My parents were surprised when I flickered into existence, but not God. I was loved and wanted and hoped for, even before that moment. In all my frailty, God chose me and keeps on choosing me.
I know now that God wants me to live free from my fear of making mistakes. Properly understood, my mistakes are nothing more and nothing less than reminders that I need grace. And I can have a lifetime supply of grace, its costly price already paid, if I’ll claim the prize. That’s the hard part. No one wants to have to accept charity – but here’s the thing: charity is just another word for love.
Love, the thing we’ll never deserve. Love, the thing we’ll always want. Love, the thing that could fill us completely, if we’d empty our shells of ego and make enough room.
May it be so. Amen.