The only good thing about two snow days followed by an early dismissal due to “wintry mix” is that Christmas just happened. Which means our new toys are still “new” and exciting to play with!
Our 11-year-old’s favorite gift this year was her Keva Planks. These simple wooden blocks provide her constantly creating brain with endless possibilities. It’s so fun to watch her stack, pattern, and build away.
What’s not fun, though, is seeing her work diligently on a structure and then with the slip of a hand or the misplacement of a plank see it all come falling down. These blocks are light and nothing is holding them together – perfect balance and a steady hand are your only hope!
The New Year is here and the pressure is on to “get it right”. No one wants to make mistakes – especially the same mistakes you made last year – so it’s time to get moving, get organized, and get it together!
Unfortunately for us, no matter how motivated we are, mistakes are in our future. Because we’re human. It’s what we do. No matter how much we strive for that perfect balance and steady hand, our brains, bodies, and hearts can only keep it together for so long.
Mistakes are a part of my every day. From the little frustrations of taking a sip of my tea when it was too hot (still feeling the pain of yesterday’s incident) to missing an event (even when it was listed clearly on the home screen of my phone) to consistently waving and saying “Hi!” to a fellow swim parent who I thought was someone else… for an entire swim season! (Yes, that happened – I have a special mental block for names and details about people’s lives.)
One of my favorite life stories in the Bible is Joseph’s. As the second-youngest of twelve brothers, Joseph was near the bottom of the totem pole in terms of family leadership. Luckily for Joseph, though, he was the favored child. His father Jacob “loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age.” (Genesis 37:3) And after Joseph brought a “bad report” of his older brothers to his father, Jacob set him apart even further by giving him a special new robe. The power struggle was real in this family and soon Joseph’s brothers “hated him and could not speak peacefully to him”. (v. 4)
If you grew up with siblings, the next verse might make you do a double take: “Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more.” (v. 5) After reading the details of the dream, which included Joseph’s brothers bowing down to him, you have to wonder why he thought it was necessary to tell his brothers about it! Was he just a naive kid who didn’t understand the ramifications of this decision? Was he desperate for a leg up in the competition? Or was his all-too-human pride being revealed? I suppose there’s a chance God was leading Joseph to share this information, but from a practical perspective, it was not the wisest decision as his brothers now “hated him even more” (v. 8).
If you know the rest of the story, you know that after this Joseph had another very similar dream and yet again revealed the details to his brothers. In our time, an act like this might lead to some mockery and family dysfunction, but in Joseph’s day, it was a recipe for violence and soon enough his brothers “conspired against him to kill him” (v.18). When the opportunity presented itself, though, they backed down and decided to sell him to some traders passing by rather than take his life.
I wonder what Joseph was thinking as he was taken from his homeland and sold as a slave in Egypt. I wonder if he looked back over recent events and felt deep regret over his choices. I wonder if he thought he had failed. If the dreams he had were indeed prophecy, the only fulfillment of them he could have imagined was that he would rise to be the leader of his family – and now, separated from them, having lost all control over his own destiny, that would be impossible. Surely the dream was ruined – one wrong move and the glorious structure of Joseph’s future had toppled into a pile of bricks!
But, as we know from the end of Joseph’s story, the “mistakes” Joseph made were only building blocks in the development of a bigger plan. Never would he have pictured his brothers bowing down to him as the second-in-command over the nation of Egypt – and it was his “mistakes” that transported him to Egypt so the prophecy could come true.
Our mistakes, especially the big ones, can be hard to swallow. It’s easy to laugh at the little ones – like repeatedly clicking on the Google Maps app every time I’m trying to check the weather (every time, I’m not even exaggerating!). But when the potential ramifications seem like they might impact God’s work in our lives or the lives of others, it’s no laughing matter. I know I’ve spent days, weeks, and maybe even years beating myself up over the ways I’ve fallen short.
But our mistakes are often the actual building blocks of God’s plan. Not doing everything the way our imagination predicts we will do it keeps us humble. We may feel like we’ve let others down, but maybe they needed to see that we’re human. And I can’t even tell you the times I’ve missed or messed something up only for the circumstances to work out for the better.
I love author Brennan Manning’s reminder that, “Despite our physical cracks, intellectual limitations, emotional impairments, and spiritual fissures, we are providentially equipped to fulfill the unique purpose of our existence.”* The steady hand holding it all together is not ours, and though our mistakes may leave us feeling like a toppled over pile of planks, God’s work is not a delicate balance we can demolish!
*”Ruthless Trust” p. 146