It was a long time ago, but I remember it clearly. A little girl in our ward had just been baptized. It must have taken a lot of courage for her to stand that next day in our testimony meeting. We thought she was going to tell us how glad she was to be baptized, but she seemed to be having a lot of trouble getting out the words. Then in a small quaking voice she said, “I was washed clean, but I already made a mistake.” Her misery was clear. I’m sure you can guess our reaction. “Ahhhh.” We felt for her. She was too young to be so disappointed in herself.
I was just thinking this Sunday morning how easy it is to be despondent and frustrated with ourselves when we make mistakes. Yet as human beings we often find ourselves making them. I remember one morning when I was thirteen, deciding that I was going to do and say everything right that day. Well, it took me mere seconds to put my foot in my mouth. Aaaargh, I thought, What’s the use. I’ll never get it right!
Now, years later, it seems funny that I thought I could get through a whole day at the age of thirteen and do and say exactly the right things. I still can’t do that even now. In fact, it occurred to me that maybe the most important message we can give to the children in our lives and maybe one of the most important things we can remember ourselves as children in an eternal sense, is that this life is a growth process. God and Jesus knew we would be making mistakes. That was the whole point of the atonement. In fact, if only perfect people went to heaven, there probably wouldn’t be anyone there.
Further, I have the feeling that our Heavenly Father reacts similarly to the way I did and the rest did in that testimony meeting when that little girl expressed her disappointment—that he reacts not with anger, but with compassion and love. Just as the rest of us in the congregation wanted to say to that little eight-year-old, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. Mistakes are a part of life and you just may make a few more along the way,” I can’t help but believe that Heavenly Father too, wants us to know that we need to continue moving forward—that we more than likely are not going to get through this life without mistakes—that if we were already perfect, we wouldn’t need to be here, and that most important, His love is unconditional.