This is my new motto. I said it yesterday when I was with Mom and Linda in Chattanooga. I’ve said it a lot through the years, but yesterday it suddenly made complete sense.
Yes, we should learn from our mistakes, but it said more to me: We should live as best we can with the information we have available to us, try to do the right thing always, and then when (I said when) we make a mistake, when we show very poor judgment, when we’d love the floor to just swallow us up so no one can see us or hear us anymore, well, that’s the time to learn. And do it intentionally. Okay, I made a mistake. I should have seen that coming. Where was my brain? And why doesn’t the floor just swallow me up?
And after the learning comes the living again, moving forward, not looking back and rehashing every single second of what we’d love to forget about forever. What’s the use of learning if you’re not going to move forward into your future? How depressing that sounds!
We can make lots of mistakes in the learning. We try a new restaurant, the food is not very good, we learn not to go there again. We buy a new jacket, take it back to the store for a refund, find that the refund policy is less than helpful, we learn to be sure before we buy at this particular store. We put too much stuff on our credit cards, suffer financially for months, even years, and learn to live within our means. We live and learn, live and learn.
About a year ago, there was a young lady, probably in her early 30’s, who started to attend our church. She lived with her two daughters in a HUD-supported apartment. My husband and I befriended her because we wanted her and her children to feel welcomed in our church. Little by little, this lady started asking for things from us: a ride to the grocery store or church because her car was torn up, cash because she was running short because one of the girls needed something extra, stuff like that. And we did all those things and gladly because we are Christians and we were being the hands and feet of Christ like we were supposed to be.
But then she twice asked my husband to privately sit and talk with her because she hadn’t had a father figure in her life. He declined both times. She never mentioned this to me. I guess she didn’t realize that my husband would mention it. We started getting suspicious and started discreetly asking around a little. It came to light that this young woman had not only lied to us, she had lied to several other church members who had also helped her when she had recited her story to them. The story was ever changing to suit the occasion, very few of which were actual needs. So being intentional and all, I have to ask myself what I have learned from this experience. I have learned not to help anyone anymore because you just can’t trust people anymore. You try to do a little good for someone, and this is what you get.
(Buzzer sound) Wrong answer. If I live and then learn, what’s next? To live again, but this time a little smarter for my efforts. Do I just turn everyone away? No, of course not. But I can be more intentional about putting God in the loop of what and where I should give. I can discreetly ask around to see if someone is talking to several people for the same kind of help. I can say no when I feel God wants me to.
See, this is a problem with us Christians: We think we have to help a person just because they ask or just because we perceive that they need help. Jesus did not help everyone he came in contact with. In the book of John, there is an account of Jesus visiting a pool of water at a place called Bethesda in Jerusalem. The Amplified Bible says there were a “great number” of people who were blind, crippled or paralyzed. It was said that periodically an angel would come from Heaven and stir up the water. The first person in the pool at that point was healed. So Jesus found a “great number” of people there. His attention was drawn to one man who had suffered for 38 years with an unnamed disorder of some kind. He was paralyzed and couldn’t get to the water fast enough to be healed. As we know, Jesus healed that man right there on the spot, told him to “Get up! Pick up your bed and walk!” (John 5:8)
Why just one man? Jesus could have healed everyone on the planet if that’s what the Father wanted. But he instead chose this one man. Everyone at the pool was in pretty bad shape. We probably can’t even imagine what life must have been for those poor souls. And yet, this one man was chosen.
Why just one man? Because Jesus did what the Father told him to do. Jesus told his disciples and, through his Holy Word and the Holy Spirit, he is telling us today that we must obey the Father. Even though we are surrounded by what we perceive to be opportunities to help, we must obey the Father. Live and learn. Pray about stuff. Get close enough to God that you can often feel or hear his guidance on the spot. Say no when God is not leading you. Say yes when He is. Live and learn. Know you made a mistake, learn from it, try to not let it happen again, and then live, my Christian brothers and sisters, live!