Ever Make a Mistake?

Are there things you would do differently given the opportunity? Things so painful you’d prefer to leave them buried under layers of futile absolutions. If only we could rescind that nasty email mistakenly sent to the wrong person, delete those toxic tweets about our arch nemesis, take back the malicious gossip, lies, and betrayals, our lack of courage or integrity, the decision to get behind the wheel after a few drinks, a pointless argument, holding onto a damaging grudge, or flying into a jealous rage? No shit Sherlock. The important thing to keep in mind is resending the deed nullifies the lesson. Maybe it was horrible but where would you be without a few monolithic errors? 

Take away the damaging experiences and you’re as appealing a sun burn. So what do you do? Go skipping off into the desert in search of aloe vera? A temporary solution at best, it takes enormous grit to overcome failure, disappointment, bad choices, as if burned by the fiery descent, you are permanently altered by the experience. 

Pinnacle experiences are not to be endured, buried, forgotten but embraced as life giving manna, a breadcrumb navigation if you will, that leads one from captivity to freedom. A private eucharist to be received with the utmost reverence if any sort of grace is to occur. This is how we become a blessing to one another. “When my pastor calls the most difficult, annoying people in her life her grace-builders, I want to jump out the window. I am so not there yet, but I understand what she’s talking about,” writes Anne Lamott. 

None of us is perfect, it’s as if we’re oysters, who take that tiny piece of unexpellable grit, and over time turn it into a pearl. Federico Fellini says the pearl is the oyster’s autobiography. We are not merely shells, with slimy innards, but pearls of great price, and all we have to do is select the setting in which we can shine. “We’re all both irritating and a comfort, our insides both hard and gentle, our hearts both atrophied and pure,” says Anne Lamott. This is the human condition. We are all in the same damn boat, casting our nets haphazardly about, in search of true bounty.

It’s actually scriptural, deeply embedded in the Gospel of Matthew, that the Kingdom of God is like a woman who is looking for good pearls. When she finds one good pearl worth much money, she goes and sells all that she has, and buys it. Why in the world did this passage make the cannon? Because life is precious, valued above all else, something sacred. Fr. Richard Rohr claims we are not just humans having a God experience. The Eucharist tells us that, in some mysterious way, we are God having a human experience! It is bloody, embodied and sensual, shocking us into a realization of our oneness with God. 

Think about that?

Why would God need a human experience? Quite possibly the only way to perfect ourselves is in and through the strict boundaries of the physical world, the limitations, the enormous gravity of it all. How rare is it for one to push aside the heavy stone, open the dark tomb of our souls, and bask in the glorious light. If we are to grow and be nurtured we must remain conscious of our own wisdom journey. “God is always the subject of love, flowing through our relationships, through our opportunities and also our challenges, through each and every one of the particular conditions we find ourselves in at any given moment. No one and nothing is excluded,” Cynthia Bourgeault. 

According to history, pearls are symbolic of wisdom gained through experience. These gems are believed to offer protection, as well as attract good luck and wealth. No wonder Larry gave me a beautiful strand of pearls on the eve of our wedding. I gave him a camera. There is something embedded here but for the life of me I can not find it. He captures, I adore, clearly a match made in heaven?

I wouldn’t be the badass woman I am today without each and every one of my mistakes. They are countless, but who’s counting? I meant that rhetorically, please, you don’t have enough fingers. Experience shapes not only the trajectory of our lives but the essence of who we are as a person.

The place of fracture once mended becomes stronger (trust me I know), replacing arrogance with humility, rashness with care, becoming a point of connection with others. Ash Wednesday is about this very thing, rising from the ashes of our failures, towards the option of new life. Resurrection from the past is our greatest gift. We should be assisting each other in this journey, not holding each other down, with the accusatory, burdensome weight of ones foot on thy neighbors neck. 

Jacob Boehme says love can enter hell and there redeem it. This is not an active love, it sits there, “next to the anguish of betrayal of Judus, the indecision of Pilate, the cowardice of Peter, the sanctimony of the Pharisees; sitting there in the midst of all this blackness, not judging, not fixing, just letting it be in love,” writes Cynthia Bourgeault. She goes on to say that this allows love to go deeper, pressing all the way to the innermost ground out of which the opposites arise and holding that to the light. 

It’s not light overriding the darkness but reconnecting it to the whole. It’s communal. That is the best news, we are redeemable as coupons, in and through each other, regardless of the errors of our ways, or our expiration date. “All of us lurch and fall, sit in the dirt, are helped to our feet, keep moving, feel like idiots, lose our balance, gain it, help others get back on their feet, and keep going,” claims Anne Lamott. 

This is our Eastertide adventure, Jesus relentlessly pushing and prodding his troops toward a new level of subtlety, like a mother bird pushing her fledglings out of the nest writes Cynthia Bourgeault. We know how to do this. We know how to fly. She goes on to say, “what once tripped you up – your fear, your doubt, your craving – no longer does so.” A flaming spirit is descending on all of humanity, our hearts are rooted in love, and he asks us to go forth, and spread the good news. I say bring some aloe vera along, just in case, you never know when the need to sooth may arise.

we fall.
we break.
we fail.

but then,

we rise.

we heal.
we overcome.

Kiana Azizian

I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, you can help me push aside the heavy stone. 


  • “At start of spring I open a trench in the ground. I put into it the winter’s accumulation of paper, pages I do not want to read again, useless words, fragments, errors. And I put into it the contents of the outhouse: light of the suns, growth of the ground, finished with one of their journeys. To the sky, to the wind, then, and to the faithful trees, I confess my sins: that I have not been happy enough, considering my good luck; have listened to too much noise, have been inattentive to wonders, have lusted after praise. And then upon the gathered refuse, of mind and body, I close the trench folding shut again the dark, the deathless earth. Beneath that seal the old escapes into the new.” Wendell Berry
  • “I imagine Lent for you and for me as a great departure from the greedy, anxious antineighborliness of our economy, a great departure from our exclusionary politics that fears the other, a great departure from self-indulgent consumerism that devours creation. And then an arrival in a new neighborhood, because it is a gift to be simple, it is a gift to be free; it is a gift to come down where we ought to be.” Walter Brueggemann 
  • You can strip yourself, you can be stripped, but still you will reach out like an octopus to seek your own comfort, your untroubled time, your ease, your refreshment. It may mean books or music – the gratification of the inner sense – or it may mean food and drink, coffee and cigarettes. The one kind of giving up is no easier than the other.” Dorothy Day


Leave a Comment

  1. Hi Cheryl.Enjoyed reading your thoughts on the benefits of screwing up. Sometimes I feel I am just drowning in benefits.You understand the concept:“The finest steel has to go through the hottest fire. “Richard M. Nixon.It takes a lot of pressure to make a diamond.And of course, what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.However, there is always a flip side. Not all mistakes or judgement errors make you better. For example, George A. Custer once said ““Indians, schmindians!” prior to the battle of the Little Bighorn.Though you are really extolling the character shaping benefits of learning from one’s mistakes, I have always been intrigued by the path not taken. If given a chance to go back and live it all over, would I? And if so, would I choose to do the same things or would I be willing to avoid the numerous blunders made along the way.When I think of the mistakes, they come to mind easily.For example, perhaps not selling my 500 shares of Cisco systems when Iraq invaded Kuwait (I knew there would be a vicious bear market) would have been a better plan. However, I am intrigued by the so-called Butterfly Effect. I enjoyed Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder’ which touches upon this topic. Would being really wealthy have had a negative impact on me and the people in my life that I care dearly about? Easy money seems to have a deleterious effect.One thing I sometimes wonder about with Gail, is the concept of striving for the best for our children, at the expense of having them nearby. We are a little jealous of families that can get together on Sundays for dinner and have 3 generations there. Sadly, our kids are scattered to different parts of the country (I realize you won’t cry me a river as your son is down under.)Really like the visual of Wendell Berry describing his mixing of his outhouse contents, the old spent writings (useless words) of the past year, along with all his sins and then putting it all back in the earth. A kind of a nice send-off/ rebirth so to speak.So to answer the question….?!?!https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0JqC2UDpoEEnjoyed the twin guitar sounds of Wishbone Ash.Thank you.


  2. Hi Mike, I always look forward to reading your take on my posts, when a comment appears in my google analytics I practically jump for joy, and then I have to savor it for a while, let it all sink in. My intent was to explore the importance of the lenten journey, reconciliation, rebirth, new life, without all the christian language, but it sort of weaseled its way into the content regardless. I think it's important to acknowledge the benefits of all our experiences, good, bad and otherwise. I only touched on a few of the more obvious decisions that can lead one down the wrong path but there are some many more. Decisions that take years to overcome, forgive, and learn from. It can be a lengthy process. I have to wonder if women and men consider failure differently after reading your comment? I consider sin a failure to love or a break in relationship with self, God and others, where men tend towards financial decisions? That's really interesting. I love that you touched on an important point when our decisions impact the people we dearly love. Those are always the most difficult mistakes to overcome or live with.I've been thinking of the recent college scandal and how parents will do just about anything if it benefits their children. Allowing our children to make their own way in this world seems to be a lesson in itself. I can understand the anxiety and fear parents experience when their children carve out a different path from their own, whether it be education, marriage, religion, location, vocation, sexual orientation, lifestyle, goals, etc. – parents feel a lot of stress when children stretch their ingrained boundaries, and patterns of belief. It's the part-two of life. Learning to live and let live. Now I have two children living out of state (one out of country) and I'm learning to appreciate the new locations they force me to visit, the new experiences I get to enjoy, and of course the contentment of my children as they pursue authentic lives. I still miss them something terrible and dream about one day having adjoining backyards. I realize I'm deranged.The Wendell Berry image has stuck with me too, powerful, dump the burdens, give them back to the earth, move on. Love the Eddie Money(interesting last name), I Wanna Go Back and Do it All Over. Can't be done – thank God. Miss you!


  3. Hi Cheryl, At the risk of being a Blog Hog, I had to respond to your reply. I confess (fall on my sword) to having made an intellectually lazy entry to this blog thread. My use of the financial error was a bit of a cop-out. Your blog started with “Have you ever made a mistake?”, followed by “Are there things you would do differently?” I realize that as the blog progressed, you were going in a more spiritual direction. Sadly, I had just returned from Vegas (Sin City!), was facing a serious work load (this is an excuse and not a reason.) and elected to keep it secular. On top of that, I thought it would lead into a discussion of the problems of money (too much is a problem, but try explaining that to one who is destitute.) Further compounding the situation, any of my numerous blunders that I consider sinful and worthy of seeking forgiveness, are actually painfully shameful. They would hurt too much to discuss in an electronic public forum. As for what I consider a sin? The easy answer would be a variation of the 10 commandments, but words I generally live by can be summed up by my mother-in-law: “Don’t do anything you would be afraid to tell your mother.”


  4. Oh my, confessions only enable us to acknowledge the wound and I suppose that is what allows us to heal. I love that you came back to expand on your reflection Mike! And yes, I was leaning towards the spiritual aspects of forgiveness as we journey towards the resurrection but I confess to a rather lazy approach this year, leaving behind the old sacrifices of chocolate and wine, but not yet ready to take on heavier convictions like compassion, empathy, and humility. Time is sprinting by this year, to many things grabbing for my attention, so I think we both get a hall pass, and simply remain open to the gifts of the season that will spark us as if a personal pentecost. Thanks for the additional thoughts, always appreciated, always welcome!


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