Catching Our Own Mistakes

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  James 1:5

Last summer, I tutored a rising freshman in writing. He was your average fourteen-year-old boy who wanted nothing to do with the rules of grammar or the mechanics of writing. He could have cared less why you sometimes use a semi-colon instead of a coma. What he did care about, I learned, was sugar.

So I worked that angle and bought a bag of Skittles.

When it came time for him to edit his own work, I gave him multiple chances to catch and change his own mistakes. When he was certain everything was perfect, I gave him a handful of Skittles and explained the rules of the Editing Game I’d made up: If he had no grammar, spelling or punctuation errors, he got to eat the whole pile of candy I’d given him. If, however, I found mistakes, I’d be taking one Skittle away for every error. That first time, I ended up taking back every Skittle.

Yet, as the weeks went on, he had fewer and fewer mistakes, and more and more Skittles. It amazed me that a kid who hated the editing process could be so motivated by small, bright pieces of candy. But it did the trick! By the end of the summer, he was catching just about every mistake he made.

We all make mistakes; It’s part of the human condition. Some of us care enough to catch and fix our own errors. Some of us don’t. I think the difference is: Those of us who continuously edit our choices and behavior have figured out the Editing Game. But in our case, the prize is peace.

When we routinely look back over our days, identify our short-comings, and then put a plan in place to correct them, our hearts get filled with a feeling of peace and well-being. We don’t ruin that feeling by expecting perfection from ourselves the first time through. We know that’s why the editing process exists in the first place. It’s our GPS: It puts us back on course when we’ve strayed from who we want to be.

In this process, God is our Tutor and the well-spring from which that peace flows. He doesn’t stand over us in judgement; He sits beside us with encouragement and support. In fact, He showers down grace and peace all the time, whether we’re mistake-fixers or not.

The glitch is: Unfixed mistakes pile up. Inevitably, they create a damn that blocks the current of His grace. When we feel angst or tension, it’s usually because we’ve forgotten to play the Editing Game.

Fortunately for us, our Tutor is ever-patient and always willing to help. When we turn to Him, we receive the inspiration we need to resume the game and dismantle the mistakes. Doing so, releases that river of peace that saturates our souls.

Questions for Reflection:

     * Is there an area of my life where I lack peace?

     * Can I ask my Tutor for the help I need to identify and fix the mistake that’s blocking His flow of grace?

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8 thoughts on “Catching Our Own Mistakes

  1. I think I daydreamed through the “rules of grammar or the mechanics of writing”. Thanks for the reminder to wake up when it comes to playing the “Editing Game” in life. That “prize of peace” sounds so great!

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  2. Wow! As a former freshman English teacher, I can so relate to your experience, multiplied by 115 freshmen, rebelling over grammar details!!! Oh how I wish I’d had skittles!!! What did reach the kids though was my comparing the cadences of our beautiful English language to music, with all its lyrical variations!!!! How we need to get the basics in the language before we can hear the melodic line. And to comment on your inspiring application to our lives, each time we try in prayer both to recognize and correct our mistakes in daily situations, that peace of the Spirit will flow through us like a refreshing melody!!!!!

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