Recently, I counseled a person who was coming to grips with sinful behavior. The person felt sorry, foolish and embarrassed, very aware of damage done. But also, the “Let’s see how much I can beat myself” mode was kicking in. My advice was to reject that option in favor of the “Let’s see how much I can learn” mode. Yes, there must be sorrow and repentance. But then there needs to be an acceptance of grace and a decision to learn from what happened so a better road can be taken going forward.
Later, I reflected on something I had done and how I reacted to it. It wasn't clear that I sinned, but as I had listened to input from some friends, it was evident that I made a pretty big error in judgment. In any case, I had hurt some others. Like the first person mentioned above, I felt sorry, foolish and embarrassed.
Interestingly my thinking went on to the fact that I am in my late 60s and I have been following Jesus for 48 years. As I mulled that, the voice in my head then said, “How could you mess up that badly? How could you have done that? You should be so much further along." As I think about it maybe I should turn in my writer's card, close down this Mind Change site, do a recall on my books and not agree to any more teaching.
Actually, I am just exaggerating with that last sentence, but the hyperbole does reflect the direction my thoughts were going. But then I "came to myself." I heard my own words coming back to me. "Let's get into the 'learn what you can learn' mode." Why would I not want to go there? Surely, not because I think I know it all. Surely, not because I think I am too old to learn. Surely, it is always the right mode to be in. After all what does more good: self-flagellation or gaining insights and new convictions?
My good friend, Gordon Ferguson, has famously said and written, "Don't waste your sin." One of the things he certainly means by that is to learn from our sins, blunders and mistakes. After we have done some damage, we can't delete it or erase the tape. But God...can still work and the tables can be turned, if we learn from the experience, let it change us and if we pass on what we have learned.
And what is one clear truth I have learned? If I have bungled, bobbled or botched something, I must not play the age card. As long as live, I will be accountable for my actions and responsible for being a humble learner. That will do far more good than taking a guilt trip or having a smug attitude of being wise and learned. Is there any connection here for you?