Authored by Dan Roselle
Most my life I had a reputation for being a good person. I was comfortable with this reputation because I didn’t like to make mistakes. (Who does?) When I did make a mistake, I generally didn’t tell anyone about it. I worked hard to maintain a good appearance. I kept the rules. I was honest. I made the right choices. But no one knew what went on inside of me, what I really did or thought about. I may have appeared good, but only I (and God) knew I wasn’t as “good” as I made myself out to be.
When I gave my life to the Lord, I did my best to read and study the Bible, memorize scriptures, pray, and do all the things that a good Christian should do. I was still fearful of making mistakes, so I tried hard to show others how good a Christian I was. I hadn’t made the connection that God wasn’t looking for perfection. All He really wanted was for me to grow in my love for Him and others.
As a new Christian, I remember reading through the Bible and thinking how silly it was that men and women made such big mistakes, sometimes in direct disobedience to God. For example, in Genesis chapter 2, God tells Adam, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”1 However, in the next chapter, Eve takes the fruit from that very tree and eats it.2 I remember thinking that Adam and Eve were stupid to disobey such a clear-cut rule from God Himself. Look at what happened to them when they disobeyed, not to mention the mess it caused all mankind! Surely I couldn’t be that dumb to disobey a direct order from God! However, I soon realized that I had made similar mistakes as well. It wasn’t long before the Lord opened my eyes to the times that I had disregarded some of the rules God gave me. I may not have eaten a fruit from a forbidden tree, but there had been times in my life when I had disobeyed God.
In my arrogance, I had similar thoughts about other famous Bible characters and the many blunders they made, like Moses getting angry and striking the rock when God told him he only needed to speak to it,3 or David killing a man so that he could marry his wife.4 Even some of Jesus’ own disciples made some pretty big blunders when traveling and living with Jesus during His time on earth. Like the time Peter denied Jesus’ name three times.5 I wondered how these men could be so careless as to make such mistakes. “How could God use them if they were … flawed?” I questioned. “Wouldn’t it tarnish God’s reputation to record such examples in His Holy Book?”
It was only when my relationship with Jesus matured that I came to understand the answer to that question. I began to realize that Jesus knew who I really was, and that He had known all along. He knew about all the good and the bad I had done. He knew my thoughts, my actions, my faults, and all of my past. Yet He loved me for who I was. He called me His son and accepted all of me—the pretty and the ugly. The same way that He forgave, accepted, loved, and chose to use those in the Bible who had made such big and sometimes seemingly unforgivable mistakes. This made me want to be more like Jesus.
In order to take on Jesus’ nature, I realized that I needed a change, a deep-down-inside-of-me type of change. I also needed to make some serious adjustments to the way I viewed failure. I began to open my heart to the Lord and tell Him of my mistakes, trials, and difficulties. When I did, my prayer life took a deeper turn. I became more open and honest with God about what I was going through. This made a big difference and I was off to a great start, because I was finally learning how to admit my faults, failings, and difficulties.
As I said earlier, though, I rarely talked to others about difficulties and challenges I faced. Talking to God was one thing, but talking to others? Then they would know who I really was inside! That was a bit of a scary thought. It took a while for me to understand that this perspective actually made others feel awkward around me. Because I didn’t talk about my difficulties or the mistakes I made, it sometimes gave the impression that I “had it all together.”
One incident that highlighted this happened with a coworker whom I had worked closely with for over a year. I remember asking her to pray for me, and her response was unusually enthusiastic. With a big smile she somewhat gleefully asked, “Are you having problems? Is something wrong?” I later found out that my small cry for help had made her hopeful that I was at last becoming more human; she had, for a while, felt discouraged as she compared her life with my seemingly perfect one. Sadly, because I acted like I had it all together, it made it difficult for her and others, because they felt like they couldn’t compete with my “goodness.”
By then, God was showing me that He had a purpose in allowing me to make mistakes, and even to downright blow it sometimes (including in front of others), so that He could portray the great and awesome power of His perfect love for everyone. None of us are perfect. Actually, I think it’s often those who know how bad they are that realize how much they need God in their lives. I’m so thankful that I’ve come to recognize how desperately I need God in my own life on a daily basis.
Jesus said that He didn’t come to save the healthy, but the sick; not the righteous, but the sinners. He associated with the hated tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners, actions that upset the sanctimoniously religious people.6 He even told the Pharisees, “The tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.”7 Jesus also chose quite the variety of 12 men to follow Him during His three years on earth.—Some with a marred or not-well-liked reputation. Take Matthew the tax collector, for example, or the brash, outspoken Peter.
I think it’s important to realize that God doesn’t look on outward appearances, but rather the heart.8 King David, for example, committed many sins and went against God’s laws, but he would often come clean before the Lord in song and prayer, admitting his failure and seeking God for His mercy. God, knowing the kind of man he was and would become, said of him, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.”9
When we make mistakes and fail, it can be a stepping stone to feeling closer to Jesus. I’m so happy I finally discovered this truth! Also, when I was willing to admit that I couldn’t do it on my own, that I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t have enough love, that I wasn’t perfect—that’s when my relationship with both Jesus and others improved. It opened my eyes to the magnitude of God’s love. He doesn’t love people because they keep the rules or are good and do everything right; He loves them unconditionally. He loves you unconditionally.
It has been said that a wise man learns from his mistakes, but a wiser man learns from the mistakes of others. That’s a good piece of advice! You will make plenty of mistakes in your life. You’ll do and say things that you shouldn’t. You’ll hurt others. It will happen. If you have wronged someone, don’t be afraid to admit this to them. You’ll be surprised at how it will change your relationship for the better. Most of all, let Jesus know how much you need Him. He already knows it, and He loves you anyway!
1 Genesis 2:17 NIV
2 Genesis 3:6
3 Numbers 20:7–11
4 2 Samuel 11
5 Luke 22:54–62
6 Matthew 9:11; Luke 5:30
7 Matthew 21:31
8 1 Samuel 16:7
9 Acts 13:22 NKJV
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2013 by The Family International