When I dropped the ball (and what good came of it.)

The little twist in my gut tightened. As the team talked on, vague unease suddenly turned sure-fire shame. Yup. I did. I dropped the ball. 
Not epic, still big.  
Honestly, I dropped the ball two months ago, but didn’t realize until last week. It wasn’t super huge, nor super heavy. But still, I failed. I forgot. I dropped the ball and didn’t follow-up when I said I would. 
“I totally dropped the ball. I’m so sorry,” I choked to my colleagues around me. 
The ball had left an impression where it fell, there at the long formica-topped table. My lapse would cost the team extra time, more work. My boss would take the force of my fail. 
“Forty lashes,” she quipped, only half-joking. And we began picking up the pieces.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the (humble) Pie 

Surprise gets our attention. Break a pattern and you’ll command attention, write Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made To Stick. Dropped balls, big mistakes, and even little lapses in the patterns of our lives grab our attention. They jolt us out of our routine. The aftershocks keep our attention.
Mistake refocus our vision. We see that our failures don’t fold God’s plans. He restores our souls and redeems our fails. He deals in dropped balls and works in weakness. His power is perfected in weakness. God gives grace to the humble.
We get up and hope on. O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities (Psalm 130:7-8) 

Judge Not

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. It was scrawled in bathroom stall back in college. I forget it. But when I dropped the ball, it came flooding back. 

Was it just 48 hours ago I’d sunk to play smug judge? I hate to admit it was. The nature of my judging matters here, because the best correction always fits the crime

It wasn’t out loud, like the Pharisee’s. But it was there, self-righteous, under my breath: 

Thank you Lord, that I’m not like one of those- those micromanaging, detail-oriented friends who get overwhelmed in minutia. Thank you, Lord, that I sit loose and rest in my broad-minded, don’t-sweat-the-small-stuff, perspective.

should have applied more Dry Idea.

Sweet Truth #1: Our failure reveals sinful layers might might otherwise lay hidden. For me, it was the “some smug judge” layer (I fear there’s still more.). Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God (Romans 14:10). 

We’ll all stand, big-picture and detail-people alike. So be kind. 

Embrace Weakness

If we never see our failure, one wise man said, we’re either blind or we haven’t taken enough risks.

It’s not as if I had the world on a string. I wasn’t exactly coasting through the last month at work. But maybe a slight saunter, a little too much self-reliance and basking in the glow of modest achievement. A good performance review here, colleague compliments there. 

But weak is where He wants us. Weak means we know we’re deficient and lacking. It means we don’t have what it takes to keep all the balls in the air on our own. I know I can’t say I’d prayed for his strength at work. For friends and family, sure. For missionaries, definitely. But his help at work? Umm. Not so much.

Sweet Truth #2: When the ball falls, we see what was true all along: we’re weak and desperately need a strong God. My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness…For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses…(2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

God loves us where we are, but-praise be, way too much to leave us there.

Forgive Others As Yourself.  

I still wince recalling how I dropped the ball. It’s uncomfortable. I wish I hadn’t done it. I dislike-I loathe-the fact that I’d break my word.

So I stop thinking of it. I forgive myself and keep right on going. It’s just like C.S. Lewis said we must do, we for whom forgiveness is a non-negotiable.

But that doesn’t make it easy. Lewis explores how it is that we forgive those who sin against us.

Apparently ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ does not mean ‘feel fond of him’ or ‘find him attractive’. Do I think well of myself, think myself a nice chap? … In my most clear-sighted moments not only do I not think myself a nice man, but I know that I am a very nasty one. I can look at some of the things I have done with horror and loathing. So apparently I am allowed to loathe and hate some of the things my enemies do…to hate the sin but not the sinner.

For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life-namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself… In fact, the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things. Consequently, Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery…But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry that the man should have done such things, and hoping, if it is anyway, possible that somehow, sometime, somewhere he can be cured and made human again.  (Mere Christianity, “Forgiveness”)

Sweet Truth #3: We must forgive others as God forgives us, and as we forgive ourselves. We fail and feel bad we’re the sort who do those things. But then, we forgive ourselves. Let’s forgive others the same way: Sorry to find that the man should have done it and loving him still. 

Forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive (Colossians 3:13).

We all fail and fall down. The righteous get back up. 

Next time you fail and drop the ball- no matter how big or small-just take a breath. Look to Christ and get back in the game. No good thing does he withhold. He disciplines us for our good. Taste and see his goodness. It’s there to be found, even in your failure.

Righteous fall. We all drop the ball. And in God’s good time, we can even be restored, remade, better, more human than before.

“For the righteous falls seven times, and rises again…” 
Proverbs 24:16

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