You know that sinking feeling you get when you realize you just screwed up? The feeling starts in your head then filters down into your core like a feather wafting to one side of the scale and then the next until it alights upon the side that isn’t in your favor.
This month brought me lots of familiarity with that feeling. My screw ups weren’t even brave failures. They didn’t result from me stepping into something new or outside my comfort zone. Instead, my error bombs resulted from me clicking the wrong square on a calendar and leaving someone off an email list.
They were careless, ugly missteps—bronze medal-worthy failure. But on the bright side, I learned something—something that I’m having a hard time expressing with words.
How do you accurately depict the beauty of perfect grace covering your irrefutable flaws?
Every time I try to explain it, my words never measure up. Grace deserves unfettered wonder and amazement, and the most I can do is sit in silence and soak it in. Now, I understand grace is “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.” But when you don’t feel the depth of your mistakes—the undeniable proof of your wrongness — you can’t be filled by the miracle of grace.
And it’s been a while since I’ve felt the gritty underside of my failure. I know I write about it a lot. And I usually follow my words on failure with a push to press on and not let failure stop you. You can do it. You’ve got this. Don’t give up.
I still believe all that stuff, but there’s something different about sitting with that sinking feeling and the realization that you can’t fix it. What’s done can’t be undone. In this kind of struggle, we desperately want someone to tell us we’re okay. That it wasn’t a big deal. It doesn’t define us.
But thankfully, I didn’t get that message from my boss until late in the day. I say thankfully because I needed to sit for a while and look at the things I can’t fix. I needed to be reminded of where my hope is.
Now, in one of my attempts to explain my grace epiphany, a friend pointed out my failures were not sins. And I totally get that. Failing to set up a meeting on the right date is not a sin. It doesn’t make you a bad person or change the trajectory of your soul. But it got me thinking.
The acceptance of the grace of God is no small thing.
We want to earn it. Deserve it. We want to think that there’s some small part of us that merits the riches of God. That he looks upon us and sees someone who is beautiful, special, what he’s designed us to be. But in my silent moment, basking in my failure, I realized God doesn’t see us as beautiful and deserving. He sees the truth. He doesn’t overlook it or pretend it’s not there. His floodlight pours over our naked brokenness, and just as the gavel is about to fall. Jesus steps forward, covering us, and saying, “She’s mine. I’ve paid her debt.” And he clothes us, and takes our hand, and gives us everything we will ever need to live the full life he’s purchased for us.
He takes our sinking feeling—the thing we wish we could take back, and he turns our face toward his and says, “I love you. I love you, and nothing can separate me from you.”
And within grace, the failure melts away, and real life becomes possible.