Have you ever had a project go terribly wrong? Many times I have had a great idea for an art or craft project, but once I got going on it I found that my mental picture was somewhat idealized, and the real thing didn’t look nearly as good as I envisioned it. In fact, sometimes I discover midway through that everything is going sideways, and as I feel the frustration and disappointment building in me, tempting me to throw the whole mess in the garbage and sulk, I remember that the best thing is to walk away and do something else for a while. Occupying my mind with something completely different will allow my project to simmer on my brain’s back burner, and either I’ll have an “aha” moment that gives me a new direction to go with it, or I’ll realize that nothing can save it—for now—and I should just put it away for another time. Then, later (sometimes years later), I’ll discover this old failure, and I’ll be struck with a new use for it: paint over it, cut it up and re-piece it a new way, break it apart and re-join it differently, whatever. Because I hate to throw away anything that has potential (and for me, that is pretty much everything), I always have lots of material to work with.
Some people enjoy the challenge of rethinking and remaking a project that went astray on our first attempt. We can turn a cake wreck into cake pops, a failed sewing project back into fabric for something else, a clay mess into a mosaic, wonky glass into a stained glass masterpiece. We also enjoy taking a discarded or unneeded “treasure” and turning it into something new and useful and beautiful. That really bad novel that I stuck with reading because I just couldn’t believe it wouldn’t get better eventually, the one I would never foist upon another innocent reader? Yes, that one will become a piece of book art once I get to it with my craft knife and glue. Those beautiful pillowcases from my friend, the ones that don’t match any sheets? They are becoming dresses for little girls in Africa and in other places where girls are so tragically undervalued. In my view, there is nothing so useless, so ugly, so worthless that it cannot become something wonderful in the right hands.
Isn’t that how God deals with us? We are free to make our own choices, and in doing so we sometimes go wrong. A bad financial decision can leave us not only broke but also angry and resentful. Poor judgment can have disastrous results. One thoughtless word can destroy a relationship. A moment of carelessness can mean a lifetime of regret. But even when we have dug ourselves in pretty deep, even when we can’t see a way to repair the damage, we can trust that God is able to use our mistakes for our benefit. Romans 8:28 tells us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Our God is a God of redemption: in redeeming us, he redeems our mistakes, our moments of weakness, our questionable choices, our lapses in judgment, our youthful indiscretions, our willful acts of disobedience, our failures of imagination, even our good intentions. If we allow him, we can be more than forgiven. We can be remade into something better, not for our own glory but for the glory of God.
If he can take our wrongdoing and make it into something good, we don’t have to be imprisoned by guilt and shame. We don’t have to constantly relive those awful moments or hours, trapped in the cycle of punishment and regret. Instead of always looking back to that time we messed up, we can look around for what God is doing, how he is converting the raw materials of our sin and pain into something useful and beautiful. But only if we allow him to work in our lives, because he never insinuates himself into a place where he isn’t wanted. Some people have to hit absolute bottom before they will call on him, and he is always standing by, probably shaking his head and wondering why we wait so long, why we are so proud and willful. But he is just as much a God of Last Resort as a God of Imminent Rescue, and whenever we cry out he will answer. We still have to suffer the consequences of our bad choices, and those can be heartbreaking, but we can be freed from self-reproach and humiliation.
In God’s loving, forgiving, creative hands, even our ugliest sins can be remade into something worthwhile, useful, and beautiful. To God be the glory!