There might be some truth to the suggestion that, “All I really need to know, I learned in kindergarten.” At least, we keep on hoping there is. (*Sigh*) Would that it were all true– that all of life’s primary lessons could be learned so early on, and that the rest of life would be merely the working out of all the essential spiritual, moral, and emotional issues that we’d already conquered in kindergarten.
But, unfortunately, it isn’t. In reality, I identify far more with the day to day conflicts of Charlie Brown than I do with Robert Fulghum. I wouldn’t say that Charlie Brown is my “hero,” but I would not hesitate to call him a friend. A well-visited friend. Someone I definitely can identify with.
(*I accidentally met Robert Fulghum once. He and his wife were guests at the B&B where I was working as an innkeeper. I made the mistake of looking quizzically at him and asking, “Is your name a coincidence, or are you the same ‘Robert Fulghum’ that wrote ‘All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten’?” Thereafter, of the two of them, I found his wife to be the more pleasant conversationalist by far. I can only assume he was seeking the peaceful anonymity of this off-the-beaten-path retreat, and I ruined it. Once again, my best intention inadvertently turned into nothing more than an annoyance…)
Charlie Brown, on the other hand, offers the consolation of a friend who truly understands the ongoing struggle I perpetually contend with in wanting to do what is right, yet somehow finding myself doing or saying what is wrong. Like Charlie Brown, I love people, and find myself perpetually trying to please others– wanting so much to be a blessing, yet sometimes inadvertently ending up being an offense. Far too often, I find myself tripping over my words which come out wrong. Or saying the “right” thing the “wrong” way. Or failing to say anything at all to a friend who is grieving, desperately needing comfort. Even the silence that sometimes happens when I am hesitating to formulate the proper response can itself become an offense, wrongly interpreted.
Or, even worse, knowing what I ought to be, I often slide into being the very things I hate. I hate worry, yet I find myself worrying. I hate impatience, yet find myself being impatient. I abhor stubborness, yet…. you guessed it.
The honesty of Charlie Brown beautifully personifies the struggle that the apostle Paul wrote of in one of the most pointed chapters of the Bible: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out, for I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing…Wretched man that I am! ”... (Romans 7)
Failure, failure, failure! Life sometimes seems to be compiled of one disappointment after another. Nothing is so real or so exact as Paul’s assessment of the heart of man.
And yet, thankfully, Paul does not leave us hopeless or without help. He contines in his frustration, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” –and then I want always want to shout this out really loud– “THANKS BE TO GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD!”
There is a resolve to our conflict! The really good –in fact, the really amazing– news of the Gospel is that it was not brought about for self-sufficient individuals who have, by their own strength and effort, succeeded to do it all right– but it’s the hope for those of us who constantly struggle with our failures!
Failure is inevitable. It’s common to all. There is no one who, by their own strength, can be righteous. No, not one! (*Romans 3:10,11.) But, thanks be to God, though all of us fail, we are not left in hopeless despair. The heart of the Gospel is that Jesus Christ has become our Righteousness by His imputation. The only way to access it is through repentance– to acknowledge our failure, sin, weakness, and our total inability to create righteousness by our own efforts– and to embrace Christ as our only hope, the sustaining power by which we live our lives every moment of every day.
You may have skimmed over my comment above that, …”I love people, and find myself perpetually trying to please others…” and therein lies the rub. I will only know true contentment and satisfaction as I stop being man-centered, and center fully on Christ, finding forgiveness, strength and help through the amazing grace of Jesus Christ– and thereby find the ability to properly love others.
As parents, our greatest joy ought to be finding God’s forgiveness and grace when we fail, because we will fail sometimes. And one of the greatest things we can teach our own children is how they can find God’s forgiveness and grace when they fail– because you can bet on it, there will be times when they will fail. Failing will not be their defining moment– but learning how to repent and find God’s grace will be.
As wives and mothers, as friends and women, one of the best things that we can apprehend is a greater understanding of forgiveness and grace when we fail– because at times, we will fail. Though failure will happen, it can become our best opportunity to find God’s amazing grace– and that, really, is our most coveted prize, our defining moment.
In the days ahead, as much as I wish it wouldn’t happen, I will likely offend someone. I will probably find myself awake in the middle of the night, worrying again about one thing or another, and I will have to repent all over again for expressing my stubborness to my husband over some issue. I will likely say a wrong thing, or neglect to say something that I should.
And I will find myself on my knees all over again, where there is forgiveness and truly amazing grace in Jesus Christ.
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