Beginner Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes.  But beginners make a certain type of mistake:  They make beginner mistakes.

Here in Haiti, one beginner mistake is to start handing out free stuff.  That’s a quick recipe for generating a flash mob.  I remember clearly the day I learned this lesson.  Was visiting an orphanage and started handing out free Frisbees. I was nearly bowled over and attacked.  Being in the center of a desperate mob was no fun.  Never again.  What’s worse is that the one kid I meant to give a Frisbee to didn’t get one, and I think he started crying.

In life, there are many beginner mistakes.  Not asking questions is one of them.  Not listening is another.  Show me someone good at asking questions and listening… and I’ll show you a relational expert (with the caveat that discretion dictates the line between caring and prying).

In regards to being a Christian, perhaps the most common beginner mistake is legalism.  In particular, thinking one is better or holier than another because of an activity or behavior one is doing or, more commonly, not doing. God’s grace for others is much bigger than we originally think.  The real shock after walking with the Lord awhile is how His grace could ever be large enough to cover our own sin.  My sin.

An acquaintance of mine recently told another acquaintance (who happened to be Catholic) she was going to hell because she prayed to Mary.  Praying to Mary isn’t Biblical, but telling someone they’re going to hell because they do so is, in my opinion, a beginner mistake.  Because God is bigger than that, less limited by misinformation than we suspect.  I’m thinking the light of God easily reaches into the lives of people we may otherwise write off.  This very evening I spoke with a Catholic girl who gave valid testimony of God working in her life.  Is her theology correct?  I doubt it.  Is my theology correct on every point either?  I doubt that too.  Is God working in both our lives? I think so.

The more I know, the less I know. My favorite saying is that, “Life is messy.”  Beginners see life in black and white. Beginners go around trying to rationalize (or wishing) the messes away.  But after awhile, it’s better to just embrace them.  It happens slowly, but one day we wake up to catch ourselves thinking, “I bet that Christian guy over there with all the tattoos knows more about God than I do.”

Speaking of knowledge, sometimes I catch myself feeling smug upon realizing I know my Bible better than another Believer.  This too is a beginner mistake. 

It’s not how much we know God’s Word that’s the question, but how much we know God Himself:

"Let not the wise boast of their wisdom… but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth…" (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

Taken a step further, perhaps it’s not even about how much we know God that’s important, but about how much God knows us.  Think of Job.  God knew who Job was:

The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”  (Job 1:8)

As Satan comes before the throne of God with accusations in April of 2013, I wonder if God will respond with, “Have you considered my servant [your name here]?  That servant who is blameless and upright?  Who fears me and shuns evil?”

A sobering question.  I wonder, “Am I even serving God in the first place?  Are my activities for me, or God? Am I where God wants me?  Am I submitting to Him daily?  Is my life committed to Him fully?  Do I fear his displeasure?  Do I shun evil?  Am I committed to not forsaking Him, even if it means going through what Job did?”

This verse encourages me:

"The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him…" (2 Chronicles 16:9)

Guess we all have to make beginner mistakes. But, I for one am ready to move on to intermediate-level mistakes.