It is no longer a mistake...
Sometimes the stuff we see on social media can actually be those little "AH-HA" moments when you just know the thing you read speaks pretty clearly into your life. When I find those items, I sometimes re-post them, or better yet, I bring them here to my blog for you to enjoy as well. One such "find" was this little plaque displayed on my friend's feed: "You can never make the same mistake twice - because the second time you make it, it is not a mistake, it is a choice." (Steven Denn) It is allegedly one of the most quoted "quotes" on the internet. It is true - the second time we make a mistake it is not a mistake - it is indeed a choice we make to deliberately pursue something we know was the wrong way. We discovered this reality the last time, but for some reason, we blindly or purposefully pursue the same path again and again simply by choice - not because we didn't realize the wrong in it the last time we did it.
O True God, my foolish ways are plain before You; my mistakes—no, nothing can be hidden from You. (Psalm 69:5 VOICE)
Some might call this repeated pattern of behavior nothing more than kind of "flying by the seat of your pants", or being "spontaneous" in life. The truth of the matter is that there is very little gained in this type of flighty behavior - in fact, we usually lose something when we don't have things well planned, with at least some thought going into it. There is a time for spontaneity - like when we are on a leisurely vacation and we just want to chill for a while, allowing the weather to dictate if we will have an "inside day" or explore the great outdoors. In most of life, we create patterns of behavior which is repeated based on the outcome we obtained the last time we performed that behavior. We put the gas in the tank of the car on the left in some cars, on the right on others. You know exactly where the gas goes, don't you? Now, find yourself in a rental car and you feel a little awkward, don't you? You get out, look around, then realize you are on the wrong side of the gas pump!
What you counted on as "consistent" is no longer consistent because the circumstances changed. This is never so true as it is in the way things come at us over the course of our lives. One day, we awaken counting on this pattern of behavior to be the "norm" for our lives. When that "norm" is disrupted by weather, illness, or even a change in the economy, we may find ourselves counting on something to be as it always is, but now we find it quite different. What we do in those moments of the "quite different" is often where we find ourselves challenged by what we know to be true - we put the truth into operation in our lives and count on it to yield the results we believe can be accomplished. Now, if we are trusting in a not-so-accurate truth, we can receive some pretty inconsistent results. This might be viewed by some as a simple "mistake", but when we repeat the pattern of counting on those inaccurate beliefs over and over again, it is no longer a mistake, but a bad choice.
I also saw this kind of silly quote about Santa, and could not help but share: "Dear Santa, I've been good all year. Most of the time. Once in a while. Never mind, I'll buy my own stuff." (Lee Ann Womack) Now, how true does that on ring for us? If you are like me, probably pretty true! We think we CAN be "good" all year, but the reality is that probably more than "once in a while" we find ourselves making what we call "mistakes", but which have become nothing more than the patterns of responses which are clearly just wrong choices. To break a pattern, we have to first recognize the pattern is wrong. When I first step out of the rental car to fill the tank, I might make the mistake, but I have learned this nifty truth - the gas gauge actually has an arrow which points to the side of the car the gas tank fill is on! Now, when I pull into a gas station in a car I am not familiar with, I look at the gauge and make the right choice on which pump to pull up to for gas!
I wish all of life's choices could be as simple. We don't find too many "gauges" in life with well-lit little arrows pointing you to the right place. Yet, if we are honest about it, we do feel some niggling, or pull toward what we know to be the right behavior, even when faced with the opportunity for a bad choice. When we recognize the pattern of choice, we can begin to listen closer for the niggling which warns us to make a different choice. Just sayin!