Can mistakes be a gift?

wile e coyoteMistakes are an essential part of life. They teach us better ways to do things, they reveal our flaws, and they humble us. Mistakes often pull the sheets off the tensions between good and evil. Children hate mistakes. They cry when the outcome is not as they expected, yet they insist we let them make them. And parents know that mistakes are often necessary.

In the Stephen Schwartz musical Children of Eden, Noah (of Ark fame) faces the challenges of being a father to his son Japheth who runs away to marry their servant girl who is not of their race. In song, Noah begins to realise that though he wishes to prevent Japheth from making mistakes, Japheth treasures making his own mistakes:

Oh this son of mine I love so well
And all the toil it takes.
I’d give to him a garden and keep clear of snakes,
But the one thing he most treasures is to make his own mistakes.
He goes charging on the cliffs of life
A reckless mountaineer.
I could help him not to stumble,
I could warn him what to fear.
I could shout until I’m breathless,
And he’d still refuse to hear.

God enters the song, singing of his own difficulties as a father. God, like any parent, gives abundantly to his children but does want to see them stumble. He desires to give warning but knows that a child’s nature is to take risks and learn from his or her mistakes. Noah and God sing the lyric that gives their song its title, “The hardest part of love is the letting go.”

I think the message of this song is that mistakes become a gift from God. Saint Paul says, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” (Romans 5:20) Though it’s important to note that mistakes and sin are different. Like a good parent, God offers us warning, but that does not always stop us from making mistakes. When we do, God is there still, helping shape us with the learned grace come from our mistakes.

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Music by Kevin MacLeod

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2 replies

  1. This reminds me of a long ago comment by my brother-in-law, a championship downhill skier. One day, early on in learning to ski, and I proudly reported to him that I had skied all day long and not fallen down once. He replied, “…so you didn’t learn anything new today?” This question has rung in my ears for 40 years. Thank you for this post.

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