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It’s no secret that we all mess up. Not one of us is above making mistakes, which means we all have, at one time or another, recovered from mistakes we’ve made. Intellectually, I know I can move forward even after I mess up, but so often I struggle to remember that moving forward from sin is actually possible for me (and you, and you, and all of us!).
God’s grace knows no bounds, which means that no sin (or sinner) is banned from grace. We can all pick up and move forward after messing up. Here are a few ideas for how to do just that:
Oftentimes, the one most disappointed in our mistakes is our own self. After messing up, it can be helpful to take a moment for yourself. The journey towards reconciliation, grace, and healing is not necessarily a downhill coast. It’s easy to beat ourselves up, so begin by doing something kind for yourself—take some deep breaths, go on a walk around the neighborhood, or drink a cool glass of water.
It is maddening to be around a person who has clearly done something wrong but cannot admit it. Recovering from our mistakes is going to be much easier if we can own what we’ve done from the start. Before we apologize to God, others, or ourselves, we should have a clear understanding of what we’re apologizing for. Where did things go wrong? What would you do differently? What was the impact of the choice you made? These reflections will better help us in repairing relationships and understanding how to avoid making the same mistake in the future.
How we apologize to those we hurt through our sin can greatly contribute to the health of our relationship with them in the future. Take this part seriously. Get in touch with the people who were impacted by your actions and ask if you can see them in person. If they agree, then you go to them; drive to their home or take them out for coffee and allow your apology to be a conversation, rather than a sentence you squeak out. I firmly believe the road to recovering from our sin is much smoother when we make a real effort to repair the affected relationships. Remember, too, that repentance to God is a necessary step in claiming freedom from our guilt. Speak with God about your sin and apologize to Him for the sin, knowing you are safe to share these things with Him.
Drink grace in like you would cold water on a hot day. Grace is limitless and without bias. If we are going to recover from any mistake—big or small—we have to wear grace like a robe. Step into its warmth and let it cover all parts of you. Receiving grace is what lifts the gate that stands between our sin and our freedom from the sin. Remember when you repented to God? He doesn’t respond to our sin or repentance with wrath—he responds with grace. Spend some time with God and allow yourself—with all of your imperfections and past mistakes—to see yourself as God sees you: through the lens of grace!
Now what? You’ve repented, apologized, consumed a hearty dose of grace—you’re moving now, away from your moment of sin. Where, though, will you go? You are free to go in any direction, but this is when you can choose to shift, even if ever so slightly, where you are going. If you tripped up on sin, you may want to consider inching your path over a bit. Maybe this requires a new hobby, new group of friends, or more a more active role in your community or church. Whatever changes you need, let this be a time when you implement them.
Grace is not a one-time offer; if (and when) you find you’ve messed up again, remember that you can recover! The process of recovering from your mistakes may not look exactly the same each time, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed with your sin, take this practical advice to orient you in how you can begin moving ahead after you’ve messed up.
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I am Mallory—a wife, a writer, and a dog mom to Roger. I love dry humor, clean sheets, sunny days, and frequent reminders of grace. These days, I hang out at malloryredmond.com, where I tell my stories with the hope of uncovering places of connection in our humanity. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter.