If you haven’t already done so, you should read the blog “My Singing Career” first.
I have shared the story describe in “My Singing Career” many times since it happened. I leveraged the story to make an important theological point that hopefully resonated and impacted people’s lives. I figured that I had learned all there was to learn from that story.
The discussion was on a totally different subject which I don’t even remember. But I clearly remember my daughter, Miss Wonderful Music Teacher saying something along the lines that teaching music is fun. Everyone can learn to sing. They simply need coaching and when they make mistakes don’t tell them to be quiet, just work with them to get it right.
In my head that was a combination of a slap up side of the head and all the lights coming on at once.
This is as clear in my mind today as it was when it happened so many years ago. I was in elementary school in a music class—singing. The teacher was leading us through something. I thought I was doing okay until she turned to me and said, “Mark, you can’t do this. Why don’t you just be quiet.”
Okay, all my music teacher friends, take a deep breath, hold it, now exhale. Better? Anger at least under control? Good, now we can go on.
The pieces suddenly fit together. I can’t sing because I was told I can’t sing. I had failed and was told I was a failure. I gave up.
This simple story has profound implications for the follower of Jesus.
We all fail. The Bible is clear about that. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3.23) There are lots more passages, I can go on for a long time on this one. We freely admit this in worship with confession. Confession is not the filler between hymns, it is gathering as people before the Almighty Himself and freely admitting that we have failed. Not just a little, but a lot. Don’t try to give me the “well I’m not as bad as…” or “I try to be a good person” lines. I’m not buying it because God doesn’t buy it. God is clear, you aren’t a good person, you are as bad as the next guy, you are a failure.
But at the same time we are forgiven children of God. Right after St Paul calls us all failures he says this “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 3.24) By grace poured out on us in baptism, grace given to us in the body and blood of our Lord, grace flooding us through His word we are his, we are forgiven, we are changed from failures into saints. The overriding message in the Bible is that God takes people who are a mess, whose lives are a disaster, who have failed, and makes them new, heals their souls, forgives their sins, and makes them His own. We are disciples and followers of Jesus despite our failures. We are disciples and followers through His grace.
These two Biblical realities impact our lives in the here and now. We are going to make mistakes. We are going to blow it at times. We are going to fail and at times fail miserably. But giving up is not in the cards for the follower of Jesus. We are forgiven, we are filled with grace, we go and try again. Our failures do not define who we are. We are disciples and followers through His grace.
The here and now of all this is when:
- · we miss the opportunity to share a Biblical truth with our children
- · we pause and reflect that our adult children don’t have a relationship with Jesus
- · our neighbor is outside and we pass on the opportunity to go and talk to them.
- · we pass along that bit of gossip masked as a prayer request
- · we forget the Ten Commandments as we post on social media
- · our co-worker shares their spouse has been diagnosed with cancer and we don’t say or do anything
It is at these moments, while acknowledging the failure, we must not think we are failures. The mistakes we make do not make us failures. Our failures are removed by the grace of God. His grace not only makes us, and remakes us as Children of God.
Because of that music class so long ago, I gave up. Grace means we do not give up. We pick ourselves up, remember we are washed clean and go forward as the Children of God He has made us to be.