Read this excerpt and tell me what you think it adds up to:
Messages that give us feedback about life.
Interruptions that should cause us to reflect and think.
Signposts that direct us to the right path.
Tests that push us toward greater maturity.
Awakenings that keep us in the game mentally.
Keys that we can use to unlock the next door of opportunity.
Explorations that let us journey where we’ve never been before.
Statements about our development and progress.
John C. Maxwell, Failing Forward, 2000
Yep. I’m sure you’ve spotted it: M-I-S-T-A-K-E-S, as reframed by John Maxwell. But his is not your ordinary definition of the word Mistake. I know I’ve posted about this before, because the usual definition that a mistake is a failure, something you don’t, can’t recover from, has been such a huge looming presence in my life.
The portrait of Achan is a case in point. It remains unfinished. My real mistake here was not in the portrait — it was in declaring it a failure and abandoning it, when it was simply the first portrait I’d ever attempted. What was I thinking? that you don’t have to learn how to do something, you’re supposed to know it all along, from the beginning? Exactly.
I never did finish it — the 10-year-old girl is now a young woman approaching 30 — but I keep it to remind me that a mistake is only a mistake if it tempts you to failure, to giving up. I’m learning how to re-translate those words: mistake, failure. The new translation reads: C-H-A-L-L-E-N-G-E.
Not a threat, not a failure, not a danger: but an invitation to patience, compassion, perseverance —and excitement. You might say, the world turned upside down.