M*I*S*T*A*K*E*S – reponding to and living through them

According to Webster Collegiate Dictionary a mistake is “a wrong action or statement proceeding from faulty judgment, inadequate knowledge or inattention” with synonyms being: error, blunder, slip, lapse (forgetfulness, inattention as a cause).

We’ve all made them – mistakes. That is why in first grade we had #2 pencils with strong erasers on them to correct our math errors and begin again. Horrors if you happen to get an eraser that made more black marks than it erased. The eraser allowed us to start over and begin again. Then came “white out” that you used on the old-fashioned typewriters to correct “typos.”

Unfortunately there was no eraser big enough to correct a mistake I made a few days ago. I certainly never intended “inattention.” I prefer to call it “extreme focus” on a particular task, while forgetting all about and abandoning a prior focus.

It was when the water started moving down the hallway and into the adjacent rooms that I realized my “abandoned focus” had serious consequences. No eraser could fix this and start over – oh, how I wished it were so.

I had inadvertently left the water running in our utility room sink and for an hour it poured over the sink, onto the floor and spread it’s way under the walls and down the halls finding any outlet it could. Fortunately, I discovered this before it spread into the other part of the house. With several days of water retrieval fans and humidifiers all was dried out and minimum damage ensued.

BUT, it was still damage and my “mistake/blunder/inattention “ reaped its natural consequences. It’s only a house – not a life, my friends kept saying.  It IS a new house, however, and we have lived through water damage before when the previous experience was not MY fault. There is a difference.

This mistake haunted me… all during the time our company was present. They arrived a few hours after this disaster. I was distracted preparing soup! I am still reliving the “mistake” as I look at reminders of that day- the table cloth I was soaking in that sink; the halls and rooms with all the floor molding removed exposing bare nails; the check we wrote to cover the insurance deductible; and the sheer inconvenience sustained by my 4 house guests.

The more valuable reminders that surface quite poignantly are the memories that represent the Presence of Christ to me through real live people.

These are they:
* my dear friend down the street who came immediately and started mopping up water; her husband followed with a water retrieval vacuum;
* our landscape man who answered my call for help initially thinking the water was coming into the house from the newly installed sprinkler system;
* the water retrieval agents our insurance company sent within the hour – who were kind and compassionate; probably sensing my chagrin and frustration at having created this disaster myself – a “mistake” that could have been avoided; they had just the right manner to deal with this disruptive situation and me;
* my house guest friends who gave me so much grace to give myself – I don’t like making  mistakes especially like this one;
* the grace to accept it is what it is… it happened and yes, it could have been avoided if I had REMEMBERED in the midst of the busyness of preparation. Now it is time to move on – that is once the repairs are done!
* most important was the deep kindness shown to me by my husband when I picked him up at the airport as he arrived from a long international flight from Romania; he was gone during this fiasco…kindness upon kindness and grace upon grace that mirrors the Presence of Christ in real life giving and soul nourishing ways. Thank you, Lord.

Mistakes are humbling and in that is great value. We are not perfect creatures; we will make mistakes and in the same breath we will live through them. I must go now and make sure I turned the water off!

And, may I offer abundant grace to you for yourself when it is hard for you to accept your most recent mistake.


Gail Seidel served as Mentor Advisor for Spiritual Formation in the Department of Spiritual Formation and Leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and as an Adjunct Professor in the D Min in Spiritual Formation in the D Min Department at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has a BA in English from the University of Texas, a Masters in Christian Education from Dallas Seminary and a D Min in Spiritual Formation from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is a contributor to the textbook, Foundations of Spiritual Formation, Kregel Academic. She served as co-director for Christian Women in Partnership Russia with Entrust, an international church leadership-training mission. She and her husband Andy live in Fredericksburg, Texas. They have 2 married children and 6 wonderful grandchildren--Kami, Kourtney, Katie, Mallory, Grayson, and Avery.