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4 | You are not a mistake

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Hi my name is Dean Smith and this in Podcast #4, “You are not a mistake.” I want to share a story of something that happened to me back in the mid-1990s. It involved an issue that has personally plagued me for years. It is this:
You are not a mistake. You are not failure. You may have made a mistake or you may have failed at something, but that does not make you a failure.
I was working on a newspaper at the time and we had just sent our most recent issue to the printer. The finished product had just arrived and someone brought a copy to my office and slapped it on my desk. The typo on the front page was the first thing that leaped out at me when it landed in front of me. I can’t remember how many times we had proofed that issue, but a mistake had somehow slipped through. And there it was glaring at me. Though this happened years ago I still remember the distinctive purple color that accentuated this particular cover. You know the last place you want to see a mistake is on the cover. After looking at it for several minutes, those feelings that had haunted me for years started welling up inside. I desperately needed to punish myself and say how stupid I was for allowing this mistake to happen. Now, I didn’t just think these thoughts, I said them out loud. Typically I yelled at myself how stupid I was when these type of things happened. There are varying degrees of this type of hate behaviour, and it is hate because you hate yourself. For me I would literally yell at myself, but you may just think these type of thoughts. I wanted to take that mistake and personalize it. It was more than just a typo on the front cover, I needed to go beyond that and say I was the mistake. I was an idiot. I was the stupid fool that allowed this to happen. I wanted to internalize this mistake. But there was something else going on at this time. Our Church was in the throes of the Toronto Blessing, a revival that broke out in 1994 at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship. God was moving powerfully by His Holy Spirit, we were experiencing uncontrollable laughing, people falling to the ground travailing in the spirit. It was quite a time. I remember during one of the meetings the Holy Spirit had fallen upon an elder of the church. He was stumbling around and finally no longer able to stand, collapsed to the floor. His speech was slurred. Eyes were blood shot. He even had drool running down his chin. He was from anyone’s perspective completely drunk. But he was not physically drunk but spiritually drunk in the Holy Spirit. So drunk he couldn’t stand. Thought it was bizarre but it reminded me of a verse in Ephesians where Paul says be not drunk with wine, but instead be filled with the Spirit. Why would Paul compare being drunk with being filled with the Spirit? Was it possible, he was seeing a similar thing happening in the early church. Even on the Day of Pentecost as the believers poured out into the streets speaking in tongues, they were accused of being drunk (Acts 2:13). How could people speaking in another language be considered drunken behavior? It wouldn’t. Obviously other things were happening as well. In the same way God was pouring out His Holy Spirit on our church. But in the midst of all this bizarre behavior, God was also bringing emotional healing to thousands of people as the Holy Spirit healed us of our inner hurts and woundings. God was calling us to forgive those who hurt us and the Holy Spirit was then coming along side to heal us. I was really impacted by this as well as God brought healing to my heart. And when those old feelings started rising up inside me, the Holy Spirit began to move. God did not want me to hate myself. God wanted to break this pattern that had ruled my life for decades. There was a power struggle going on inside. Utterly depressed about what had happened, after work I slowly trudged out to my car. It had not yet been determined who was going to win that day. As I sat in my car in the parking lot, the battle heated up. I desperately wanted to call myself stupid, but the Holy Spirit was also there saying it was a lie. I probably sat in the car for nearly an hour with part of me wanting to spew hatred and the Holy Spirit saying don’t do it. Incredibly, it was one of the scariest things I ever went through. The fears surged inside me because for years I had verbally beat myself up when I made a mistake and in some obscene way it brought me comfort as I dutifully punished myself for what I had done. Now God was saying don’t do it, because it is a lie. I wasn’t a mistake. I wasn’t an idiot Thankfully, God won the battle that day in the car. It became a water-shed moment for me as God broke the control that the fear of making mistakes had over me. It is not that I haven’t had slip ups since then, because it is a process, but God is changing me and can change you. For years, I had believed a lie, because the Bible says that we are not idiots, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Though we are sinners, that is still how God looks at us. And in fact, the writer of the Psalm was thanking God for who he was. Are you able to thank God for you? Here is the key: God wants to change how we look at ourselves. In order to succeed we have to be willing to make mistakes and we must be able to treat them as they really are, just mistakes. They say nothing more about you. We learn from them and move on. If we don’t do this, these mistakes will begin to control us. In fact learning how to deal with our fear of making a mistakes was one of the major emphasis of Jesus in the Gospels. We see it in Jesus’s parable of the talents found in Matthew (Matthew 25:14-30). Jesus told the story of a master who was leaving on a long journey. He gave his slaves talents to invest while he was gone. He gave one man five talents, another two and the last one. The men with the five and two talents, took risks, invested the money and doubled the master’s investment. But the man with one talent was so consumed about making a mistake, investing it wrong, that he buried it the ground and waited for the master’s return.
24 “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ (Matthew 25:24-25 NASV)
We know that Jesus was concerned about people who feared making a mistake because the focus of this parable was not on the men who doubled their investments, but rather on the third man who buried his talent. He feared failure. He was so scared of making a mistake that he was paralyzed. He was indecisive and didn’t know what to do. Procrastination is a classic indicator of a fear failure. I should know I specialize in this ability. I am indecisive. Can’t make a decision because I am always scared of making the wrong one. But when you don’t make a decision, you are always wrong. The slave was so controlled by a fear of making a mistake that he couldn’t even do the obvious and put the talent in the bank and let it collect interest. The major lesson from this parable is this: if you fear making mistakes, you will never succeed. You have to be willing to risk failure. And you can only do this if you don’t personalize your mistakes and if you don’t personalize your failure. Jesus’s message is that God does not want the fear of mistakes to control us. We are going to make mistakes that is part of life. We have treat to them for what they are. Don’t let your mistakes define you or your fear of making mistakes control you. Bury your mistakes, don’t let them bury you. But what so often happens is that we define who we are by our successes and failures. If you succeed, you are a winner. If you fail, you are a loser. Your successes and failures have nothing to do with who you are in Christ. A few weeks after my cover-typo crisis, I got a call from my boss about the latest issue of our newspaper. He called to congratulate me on a great issue. After that conversation, I was on an emotional high. I was ready to work day and night on the publication. It was an emotional roller coaster, because a few weeks earlier I was depressed and ready to quit because of a simple typo on the cover. Then I felt a tap of the Holy Spirit on my shoulder. God spoke to me that being on an emotional high because of a success was no different than being emotionally depressed because of a mistake. These were the two extremes of exactly the same issue. I was letting failure and successes define who I was. We must not let our failure and even successes define who you are. You are a child of God and accepted by the Lord, whether you fail or succeed. But having said that fear of failure is probably the single greatest impediment to fulfilling your calling in God. These fears need to be dealt with for you to reach your full potential.
  • The first step in this healing process is recognizing how much you are controlled by fear.
  • The second step involves asking the Holy Spirit to come along side you to strengthen you: 26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; (Romans 8:26).
  • The third and most important step is believing that God accepts you just the way you are and wants you to succeed.

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