“An Essay on Criticism” by Alexander Pope
To err is human, to forgive divine. All people commit sins and make mistakes. God forgives them, and people are acting in a godlike (divine) way when they forgive.
We all make mistakes in life. Some are more painful than others. The assumption is that we learn from the mistakes and do not repeat the same one. The reality is, you can can only make a mistake once: the 2nd time is a choice. So, if we keep making the same mistake/choice, does that mean we are just dumb? All through life, we learn things. Sometimes, we take the advice and teachings of those around us. But, there are the times that we get burned testing our boundaries.
When I was a child, I was fascinated watching my mother test the heat of the iron. She would touch her finger to her tongue and then touch the the bottom plate of the iron. I decided that I wanted to iron my paper doll clothes. So, I did all of the things I had observed my mother do in the past. Except, I didn’t lightly touch the iron. I pressed my index finger to the metal plate. I had been told many times not to touch the iron because it would burn me. The pain and the resulting blister (and the scorched paper doll dress) were reminders to heed the warnings.
But, my need to prove myself didn’t stop there. It was around the same time of my life. We were at an Easter egg hunt at my grandparents farm in Foard City. It was a big family get-together and there were lots of eggs to find. My Aunt Ruth, who was just a few years older than me, stopped me and pointed out some pretty pink flowers and pointedly told me NOT to pick them. I went on about the business of hunting eggs, but I kept thinking about those bright pink flowers. Ruth and I often would go pick wildflowers around the farm and I wondered why she was being so selfish about those pretty flowers. In hindsight, I don’t think I had even noticed the flowers before being told to leave them alone. But, now, I was obsessed with them. I decided to show my aunt that I could pick any flower I wanted and deliberately grabbed the bright pink blossoms with both hands.
If you have ever encountered a Prickly Pear Cactus, you know about the sharp spines. I didn’t manage to pick any of the flowers, but I did get both hands full of needles and spines. All because I was so caught up in having my own way and not paying heed to warnings that I had received.
From the time of Adam and Eve in the garden, we have been inclined to test every rule and push every boundary. If the speed limit is 60 mph, we drive 65 mph or more. A sign that says “WET PAINT” is more of an invitation to touch it than a warning. We make dumb comments for excuses when ignoring rules or warnings:
- “It’s just a little white lie. It doesn’t hurt anyone”
- Texting isn’t a problem when I drive”
- “If I can serve my country at 18, I should be able to drink!”
- “It’s not cheating on my spouse if I’m not happy. I deserve to be happy”
- “God wouldn’t have brought him/her into my life if He didn’t want us together.”
- “As long as I go to church on Sunday, I can do anything I want.”
- “I don’t need a church to feel close to God. I am a spiritual person and do just fine on my own.
And my favorite dumb comment. . .
- “It’s just sex. It’s not important. It doesn’t mean anything”
I have done things in my life that were just dumb. I would bet most people have. I have hurt other people and I’ve had to apologize for my actions/words. And, I’ve been wounded by people for whom I cared deeply and then I had to learn to forgive. I’ve got a good grasp on the “err” and “dumb” actions. The “divine” part is a little harder.
I’m grateful that God is divine. He is forgiving and merciful. I try to remember that I really don’t want life to be fair, because I want the benefits of mercy in every situation. Even so, I know there are consequences when I step over the line. The results may not be as evident as a blistered index finger or a hand full of cactus spines, but there are penalties that have to be paid. Whether it is a fine for a speeding ticket or the loss of the trust and respect of my loved ones, there are always consequences.
A favorite verse from the Old Testament talks about consequences and forgiveness:
If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust swarms to eat up all of your crops, or if I send an epidemic among you, then if my people will humble themselves and pray, and search for me, and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear them from heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land.2 Chronicles 7:13-14 TLB
There will be payment for breaking the rules, choosing to rebel or ignoring the guidelines and instructions you have been given in this life. Usually, the retribution is much worse than the enjoyment of the moment of rebellion. My prayer is that I become more divine, more God-like in my choices. I must face my issues and follow the best path, not necessarily the one that benefits me the most. I must forgive those that cause me pain and be willing to pray for them, even when I just HATE doing that. I must honor my promises and my vows in all areas of my life.
What do your choices in life say about you? Are you just human or moving toward the divine? How many will admit to just being dumb when it comes to making decisions?