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2149 N. Green Bay Road
Racine, WI 53405

Sunday Service at 10 a.m.
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Intention: Courage & Mistakes

Have you ever heart of kintsugi? Kintsugi means "to join with gold" and is an art form that goes back hundreds of years to the Muromachi period (approximately 1336 to 1573). The story is that the third ruling Shogun (or leader) of that era, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, is said to have broken his favorite tea bowl. The bowl was unique and could not be replaced. Instead of throwing it away, he sent it to China where they were known to repair pottery. The bowl returned repaired with its pieces held in place by metal staples. As you can imagine, not only did this leave the tea bowl unusable, but it didn't look great, either.

The Shogun then called upon his own artisans to find a way to mend the bowl that would not take away from its function or beauty. And so, kintsugi came to be.  It was a method that used lacquer to join the broken pieces, then the cracks were painted with gold, highlighting, instead of trying to hide, the imperfections. I made the above kintsugi vase to share with our kids at Sacred Journeys and to talk about how a mistake can be turned into something beautiful. And to remind all of us that our imperfections don't lessen our value. We are, and always will be beloved of the Divine.

So, I'm curious, if you look honestly at yourself, how comfortable are you with making mistakes? Do you easily admit when you were wrong, or when you accidentally screwed up? Do you worry about making a fool of yourself in front of other people by trying something new? 

Most of us don’t like to fail and we don’t like to make mistakes. We worry about what others might think, or we worry that we won't live up to our own standards, we are afraid of "making a fool" of ourselves, we're afraid of perceived or real consequences, or we just don't like being vulnerable. Sadly, this can sometimes keep us from the “aliveness” we talked about last week, because we hold ourselves back from doing something we might not be perfect at, or trying something new.

In case you hadn't noticed, our culture has issues with perfectionism. It seems like failing or making a mistake is only ok if you can come through the other side, become a huge success, and write a “how to succeed” book.

Our scriptures and our churches haven’t helped. I had the hardest time finding anything in our Bible that even suggests that it is ok to make a mistake because God will love you anyway. Just looking at what words are used in the Bible gives us a clue as to what was important to the authors. In the New International Version the word “mistake” can be found 6 times (usually in the context of “don’t make one”). The word “perfect” can be found 42 times. And the word “righteous/ness” (meaning to be right, to do what is right) can be found 493. Obviously, the most important thing was to do everything right and to be perfect in the eyes of God.

The closest I came to a scripture passaged that worked was James 3:2 which says, "After all, each of us falls from time to time." Unfortunately, that is directly followed by a comparison to perfect people. So, to that one line I'd like to add two more Biblical phrases: "take courage" and "be not afraid."  "Take courage" is only in scripture a few times, but I think we need it much more! But "be not afraid" can be found 97 times. 

My friend Chris told me a story about taking her niece to the Hot Glass Shop here in Racine for a glass fusing class as a gift for her college graduation. Her niece was going to be a teacher. Now, this was her niece’s first time doing this and she had a really hard time with it. She said she didn’t know how to do it. My friend answered “well, you just have a vision and you work on it.” And the niece threw a fit, “I don’t have a vision! I don’t know what I want to do! I’ve never done this!” She completely freaked out. Eventually Chris looked at her and said, “Look, you’re going to be a teacher, which means you need to learn how to model being ok with trying something for the first time.”

Mary Tyler Moore once said, “Take chances, make mistakes. That's how you grow.” To do this we need to recognize that sometimes we fall, but if we take courage and let go of our fears, the world will open up for us in new ways. Why? Because we need courage, and some self-confidence, to worry less about mistakes and what other people think, and simply engage whatever task or new thing is before us, giving it the best we’ve got.

Love is intimately tied to our courage in making mistakes. If I know you will love me even if I fail, I won’t be nearly so scared of trying. However, if every time I drive you criticize my driving, if my cleaning is never good enough for you, if you berate the books I like to read or the shows I like to watch, if you send a clear message that I’m not good enough, not living up to your standards, if you constantly judge me, want me to be perfect, criticize me when I fail, how likely am I to try something new? Or sometimes even try at all? How likely am I to risk and trust and be vulnerable? If I am clearly not loved as I am, why would I dare risk trying something new?

Because none of us is perfect, offering this type of love consistently is really hard. We’ll fail at that, too. It helps if we can remember that God is love. Period. This is the love that wells up within us, this is the love that calls us Beloved even when we feel unlovable. There is nothing that can separate us from the unconditional love of God – no church, no doctrine, no mistake or flaw or word or action. So, don’t be afraid, take courage and live with aliveness.

Love & Light!