Spilling Water and Other Godly Acts

Kids Teach Us the Holy Art of Making Mistakes

As an adult I make mistakes several times a day and usually feel slightly bad about each one. My nieces and nephew—Cristina, age 8; Patrick, 5; and Carolina, 3—make a mistake every ten minutes.

Constant bloopers
One can’t quite pour a glass of water without spilling some of it. The other takes on a craft project, although she can’t paint completely within the lines. The other bats ten times for every hit and changes the rules so it’s the running that counts.

My nieces and nephew live in a world of constant bloopers and they are fine with that. It’s the only world they know—stretching, trying, falling, learning, creating, and trying again.

Of course, they periodically get frustrated with themselves. Like when the little one insists on putting on her own clothes, yet several tries later her limbs are still not through all the right holes. The other gets scared when an adult chastises her for an error. But a few big feelings later, they’re back on the mistake = learning track .

And for adults?
After recently spending a month with my nieces and nephew in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where they live, I got back to Los Angeles and noticed I was more relaxed about my own blunders. I felt more tender towards myself in the places where I still can’t paint within the lines.

It’s a change from having grown up with the perception that God was perfect as were many of the saints. Becoming mistake-free was surely a sign of holiness.

The real holy art
But these days I’m thinking that
forms us knowing that our entire lives we’ll be messing up. It’s our humanity to always point ourselves towards the next challenge and the next adventure, even if our journey is riddled with errors.

In a way, our journey isn’t unlike God’s journey—whose universe has evolved over billions of years. The proof is in my neighborhood as I look at the calla lilies, the birds of paradise, the roses, and the palm trees. Each of these a sign of God stretching, trying, falling, learning, creating, and trying again. And our invitation to do the same.