November 20, 2009

The Joyful Catholic / Rick Hermann

Despite our imperfections, God writes straight with crooked lines

Rick HermannI remember at age 4 when I began learning to write letters and words in cursive handwriting.

Hunching over a piece of paper and clutching my pen, I scrawled my letters with great care— up and down, curve to the right, then loop over. Whew!

One time, I finished a difficult sentence and looked at it with pride. To my horror, I discovered a mistake in one word.

“Oh, no!” I thought.“It’s ruined!”

Running into my mother’s room, I showed her my hopelessly flawed masterpiece. She calmly took my paper and gazed at it.

“Give me your pen,” she said lovingly, as she held out her hand. “Let’s see what we can do.”

As I watched in amazement, she took the pen and effortlessly began to trace over my mistaken letter on the paper. Then she neatly traced new strokes to create the correct letter. The now-perfect letter appeared without any evidence of my imperfect scrawl. Incredibly, the fixed letter appeared to be in my own handwriting.

She smiled as she handed the page back to me, and my eyes must have sparkled with astonishment at her skill.

“Thanks, Mom, you’re the greatest!” I said, and dashed off with my newly restored work of art.

I think this is how God fixes our mistakes in life. He does not prevent us from making mistakes, but he gladly fixes them for us if we ask him for help.

Whenever we make an error and humbly ask him to forgive us, he gladly traces over it to make it all right.

True to form, God does not erase our mistakes, but he uses them as the basis to start writing something new and right and wonderful.

I rejoice in imagining that in some impossibly creative and artistic way, God is miraculously tracing over all my past mistakes and creating something new and beautiful for all to see.

We may grieve as a result of our past trespasses or we may feel anger because someone has trespassed against us. Then we may despair because our lives, or the lives of others, can never be what we wanted or hoped. Yet all is not lost.

Like a novelist who rescues his hero from certain disaster, our Lord is continually rewriting the story of our lives.

If we request his divine penmanship, God will surprise us with happy endings in the most unexpected and delightful ways.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps 37:4).

So do not cringe when you remember a mistake you made in your past. Do not worry about the imperfections you make with your life’s pen. Whenever you slip up, ask God to gracefully trace a correct path using your incorrect one as the starting point.

Submit your errors to the Author of Life and trust him to re-write the story of your life.

God fervently desires to write passionate words of love on your heart. Imagine that!

Just as Jesus traced words in the sand with his finger, God wants to inscribe a perfect future in your soul with a colorful flair. Thus, God sets us free to forget the past, live joyfully in the present and look confidently to the future.

Now I realize the only difference between my mother’s skill in handwriting and our Lord’s skill in life-writing is that I never told my teachers how she improved my penmanship, but now I shout from the rooftops to tell everyone that our Lord wants to correct all our mistakes so that we may enjoy our lives more fully now and forever.

“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Prv 3:6).

(Rick Hermann of St. Louis is a Catholic author and career coach. His e-mail address is

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