In one of my first days in coming to Ecuador, I was with the local priest in Chontal. At this time, I didn’t speak much of any Spanish, and we had made a trip up one of the mountains to visit the home of a family. The priest and the man of the house were talking, and naturally, because I couldn’t really follow the conversation, I started to fade out. The tiredness sunk in, and I was off in a daze.
After a little while, the man turned to me and asked, “es casado?”, which means, are you married? Now, I thought he must have been looking at me and noticing the glaze on my face. I thought he asked me, “estás cansado?”, which means, are you tired. So, I began to shrug and say, “A little bit …”
And that was the first of many big mess-ups in the Spanish language that I have made since.
But you know what? That mess-up is very valuable.
I told that story at the beginning of the language group and club I started in Puerto Quito. I tell the stories about my mess-ups, because (a) everyone laughs and feels comfortable, (b) the lesson I learned from the mistake grows deeper roots in me, and (c) everyone feels free to make their own mistakes. Do you know that the biggest obstacle to learning a language is the fear of messing up? If the people are not willing to mess up, if they are too embarrassed to start speaking, then it’s impossible to grow. The mistakes that I make, the messups that others make, those are the very foundation of the groups. Without those, there’s nothing. But with those, we can build something special.
In the Gospel yesterday, Peter and Jesus are on the beach, meeting for the first time since, well, since Peter denied Jesus three times at the moment when Jesus could have most used some support. And Jesus doesn’t yell at him, He doesn’t fight him, or kick him to the curb. What does He do? He makes him the first Pope! That’s what he’s doing when he says, “Feed my sheep.” (Jn 21:17)
What’s going on? How you make the guy who ditched you – three times at that – in the very hour when you needed him most, how do you make that guy the foundation of the Church?
The clue? 3 times. Three questions, three times he says, feed my sheep. He’s laying a foundation on Peter’s denials. He’s laying the foundation on Peter’s mess-ups. Everything about the Catholic Church, everything about the Christians churches today, stands on Peter’s mess-ups.
Jesus didn’t come for the good things of life. He didn’t have to leave heaven to get the good things of life – everything’s already good in heaven. He did have to leave heaven and become one of us to get our mess-ups. Our mistakes, our sins, our failures, our weaknesses and shortcomings, the embarrassing moments of our lives, everything that humiliates or hurts us or others, He wants it all. Give it all to Him.
He’s going to lay a foundation with them, and He’s going to use them to do something great.
Your mess-ups are very valuable.