I used to be able to do math. I won the department math award at my university and taught computer science at the college level, but that was 35 years ago (if I did the math right). Lately, I’m unsure whether I’ve left a 20% tip. Watching my mother struggle with the same declining ability show’s me it’s not going to get better. For a lot of people this wouldn’t be a big concern, but for me it’s the equivalent of texting an invitation to the wrong person or forgetting to zip my jeans.
I am so stupid! I can’t do anything right. Now people will pity me. These are some of the thoughts my inner critic can be overheard exclaiming as I pull out my phone to double a number and divide by ten. What embarrasses you? Toilet paper on your shoe? Tripped down the steps? Left your child at the gym? Not a person has ever been born who didn’t make mistakes (OK, there was One). We are limited creatures and fallible. It’s unreasonable and unloving to demand perfection of others – or of ourselves. But most of us do it.
I am thankful for a snippet from Brennan Manning I read some years ago for teaching me another way. (If I could find it, I would quote it.) He wrote that grace teaches us a new purpose for all our mistakes, those unintentional foibles which the Accuser likes to exploit. He said every blunder is a sweet reminder that we need Jesus. There isn’t one single thing we can ever do perfectly, and perfection is the standard for salvation (Matt. 5:48). To be reminded of our humble, fallen nature is to be reminded that we are not only forgiven for our sins but also completed for our imperfections in the righteous life Jesus lived on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 10:14).
Now I try to accept my bloopers with a smile and let them preach a different message to my heart. Lipstick a mess? Left my purse at the grocery store? It just means I need Jesus. And, hallelujah, He’s there. I always have needed Him, even when I thought I could be perfect on my own. Now in my growing confusion, I see more clearly than I ever have: I need Jesus for everything. Even math.