When I was 15, my mom and dad left me in charge of my younger brother and sister at home. It was the first time I had been given babysitting authority, and believe me, it went straight to my head. They cautioned me about how to care for younger children, but I was quite certain I knew all I needed to know. As soon as they walked out the door, I settled in to my real agenda - watching some sitcoms they wouldn’t normally let me watch, Cheers and Night Court.
Things were pretty quiet for the couple hours they were gone. I enjoyed my time alone, and I thought I was in the clear. But when they walked in, I heard a storm growing as they made their way through the house to where I waited with mounting anxiety. They were mad. Real mad.
While I had been enjoying my self, my brother had fashioned a metal coat hanger into a tool - a tool he was busy applying to electrical outlets upstairs. And my sister had carefully painted our cat with my mom’s lipstick...ALL over the cat. (The cat was never the same; I think it suffered the indignity until the day it died.) Suffice to say, I got in some well-deserved trouble that day.
Now you may not have been an accomplice to painting a cat with lipstick, but I know, and you know, that you have a couple too many stories like this. We all have plenty of times we have done something we shouldn’t, and there was a cost and consequence we had to face. This is the human experience. We all fail, we all mess up. We all miss the mark. And we all pay a price for those missteps.
Missing the mark is how Jesus described sin. It was a concept borrowed from archery. And just like great shooting, steady, accurate, aim takes focus and effort. It also requires learning and practice. And everyone is going to miss sometimes.
Like a skilled sport, until we know why we do what we do, why we miss the mark, why we are making bad decisions, and how to correct the errors, we will continue to miss.
Why we do what we do is different for each of us. We all have our weak points that make us susceptible to our signature sins; I know I do. Whether there are childhood issues, selfish desires, responses to stress, marital strife, or economic anxiety, until we identify the cause of why we are missing the mark we can’t expect to do better. We are the one who is really undermining our best decision making, and until we look at ourselves honestly, we aren’t going to do better.
God asks to help each of us do this. God is the ultimate coach. God wants our honesty, so He can help us put things right as only a loving, forgiving, encouraging, and healing God can. And God is willing to do that with you and with me over and over and over again. There is an endless supply of arrows and a patient and loving Instructor pointing the Way to our target. That is amazing grace.
This week we will miss the mark. The question is not will we fail, the question is, will we be honest about why, and will we ask God to help us do better? That is the life of faith.