Without another identity already entrenched, we often tend to define ourselves by mistakes. I don’t know if that’s just built into the human psyche, industrialized society, or just general American culture, but I see it all around me. And I see it in all forms around me.
Take my dad, for example. He’s the epitome of responsibility; he will do what he says he will do, and he will suffer great personal inconvenience to fulfill his responsibilities. I find that to be one of his most admirable traits (and one of the ones I most appreciate inheriting). He can easily be identified as the guy who you can count on, and that could sum up the entirety of the identity he upholds. He’s not the retired chief petty officer. He’s not the Lions Club district governor. He’s not the supportive husband or providing father. He is the guy who can be counted on; the rest of those are just roles he’s been counted on to fill.
I can’t begin to know what made my dad that way, but I believe it’s a mix of his past mistakes as a father (effectively losing two sons) and as a man (a long-term alcoholic, though quite recovered now) combined with the mistakes he saw his father making with failing to provide for his family. My dad was one of the rare men who learned from his own mistakes and the mistakes of those closest to him, and I imagine a day (probably around the time I was born) when he said to himself, “this has to change, and I have to change.” Fast forward nearly thirty years, and here he is.
Like father, like son, though. I see his mistakes and tell myself, “I’ll never make those mistakes.” All too often, however, his flesh and his sin is revealed in me. It nearly destroyed me in ways he, and most others, do not even know. But, thankfully, God intervened…
Nonetheless, I’ve authored so many of my own mistakes. Sure, certain dynamics of male sin nature I inherited from my father like so many of my fellow men, but so many of my other past mistakes are purely my own. From my high school drug use to my shortly-after-high-school “holier-than-thou” condemnation of my father; from my lack of patience with my now-deceased mother to my gross naivety that has me facing down a possible terrible future I never thought possible; from one business failed due to lack of time investment from me to another business stripped from me by my choices in friends; from my nearly-destroyed marriage to my nearly-never-born son… It’s so easy to be overwhelmed by the weight of my own mistakes.
It’s at times like this when I have to forcibly remind myself of my True Source of identity. I can’t just look at my own mistakes and say, “here I am, the sum of my mistakes.” Likewise, I can’t look at my father, his father, my former associates, or wife and see their mistakes and say, “here I am, the avoidance of their mistakes.”
I have to remember that I do not identify or indemnify myself. It is only God who calls me by my true name, and it is only God who can make me blameless. Thankfully, it is through Christ that both are achieved. This is my prayer:
Help me, Father, to remember who I am.
Help me to not lose sight of You.
Help me to never fail to hear You call my name.
Help me to face the road ahead without resentment.
Help me by forgiving me.
Help me to forgive myself.