The Mistake You Can’t Afford to Make

Aug 24, 2016

Grabbing my car keys, I hollered a “goodbye” to my high school son as I headed out to the garage. I had fifteen minutes to make it to my appointment, more than enough time. I climbed into my parked car, buckled up, and put the car in reverse.

One teensy-weensy problem. The garage door wasn’t yet open. In progress, yes. But I hadn’t allowed enough time for it to finish its ascent.


Stunned, I slammed on the brake.

I’d hit the door, the brand new garage door my husband installed months before, with the family car we were trying to sell.

No. Please, no.

“What happened, Mom?” The teenager poked his head outside, took in the carnage, shot me a look of shock.

Humiliation complete, my head dropped to the steering wheel.

What’s wrong with me?!

Yep. Those are the first words that flew through my mind. Followed closely by What were you thinking?! and Why can’t you do anything right?!

A day or two later, I’d see the waste of those questions. But in the moment of my crisis, my brain threw accusations faster than a ruthless clique of junior high girls.

I felt nothing but shame. A garage full of it.

If you ask my friends and family to name my one fatal flaw, they’d likely tell you it has something to do with unrealistic personal expectations.  I’ve long been too hard on myself. I expect … excellence. Every moment of every day. As a mother. A wife. A friend and business owner. And yes, as a driver. I can’t afford to make mistakes! Which is why I gave myself a verbal lashing and grounded myself to my bedroom where I sobbed about decimated garage doors and my utter worthlessness.

Super helpful.

After twenty-four hours of funk, my eighteen-year-old son shook me out of my self-loathing with a few wise words:

“Mom. Accidents happen. Let it go.”

Ugh. I hate it when my kids are right.

We do this, don’t we? We talk a good talk about grace, but in the heat of a failure, we can’t seem to find a shred of it. Truth is we expect quite a bit from ourselves. We expect to juggle a thousand responsibilities and not pay for it with exhaustion. We expect to navigate illness and not require rest. We expect to show up, smile, and work hard, day in and day out, juggling our multiple roles, while maintaining a near-flawless performance.

Sooner or later, however, we rediscover our humanity. A missed appointment. An impatient response. A blown diet. A damaged relationship. A misspoken word. An obliterated garage door.

Faced with our failures, we plow right through grace and truth with our weapons of mass expectations.

What’s wrong with me?!

Other than asking the wrong question, nothing. At least, nothing grace can’t cure.

My friends, Jesus didn’t exit heaven for earth just so you and I could kill ourselves trying to be good enough for him and everyone else. He came so his death and life could cover us, free us, once and for all. It’s an insurance plan with no deductible, price paid. For our unintentional mistakes—i.e. destroyed garage doors—and the intentional ones.

Imagine! No shaking fingers. No disappointed glares. Instead, grace.

What failure are you lugging around? What mistake can’t you forgive? What wreck are you refusing to release and restore?

You may need to do damage control, make right some wrongs, offer an apology. You might even need to invest some time to rebuild.

It won’t be the first time a human needed to do the like. How do I know? Because it turns out the garage-door repairman who showed up at our house does the same thing forty hours a week. He fixes garage-door-sized mistakes. 

Accidents happen. Let it go.

Don’t let your self-talk cause more damage than your driving. That’s the real mistake you can’t afford to make. Do what you can to fix it. Then, let it go.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

What is one failure you need to forgive? Name it. Then let it go. 

Image Attribution: enki / 123RF Stock Photo


  1. Bruce Cross

    Thanks for the poignant and timely reminder to take our foot off the gas in handling life’s unexpected moments. Good, good word!!

  2. Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

    I so relate. I actually berate myself for having too much physical pain to be on my “A” game for Jesus! At times, I entertain the idea that He is upset with me for my physical limitations and that if I REALLY loved Him, I would just carry on like others who can offer time, volunteer services, show up multiple times a week…at night! Then I read His love letter, and scriptures like the one you quoted above, and it sets me right again. But sometimes it takes more than twenty-four hours.

    • Michele Cushatt

      Goodness. How many times have I said something like “If I really loved …” or “If I was really a good person, I’d … ”

      P.S. The “twenty-four hours” was a rather quick turnaround for me. 😉

  3. Jeannie S

    Oh Michele, I did the same thing! Thank you for writing this. First I backed into our driveway and into the garage door and then to frost the cake a month later I backed out of the garage into my husband’s car on the driveway and I even looked. I’m 57 years old and have never done this. So, I beat myself up twice. And like your wise son said I just had to let it go. We finally replaced the door, but the car still has a dent and I cringe every time I see it. I’m just thankful it wasn’t a person. Thank you for the reminder that the berating self-talk is far more damaging than a dent in a piece of metal. Blessings!

    • Michele Cushatt

      Because why beat yourself up once when you can do it TWICE?!?! Been there, done that. Thanks for sharing, Jeannie!

  4. Michelle

    “Don’t let your self-talk cause more damage than your driving. That’s the real mistake you can’t afford to make. Do what you can to fix it. Then, let it go.” Simple yet profound perspective that I hadn’t considered! Thank you! Thank you for your wisdom, courage and vulnerability.

  5. Janell

    Oh Michele! I feel your pain! I drove into my driveway, pushed the garage opener and drove in like I do every single day….forgetting we’d had a garage sale…hit our canoe and drove it right through the garage wall that goes into our dining room! Big mess. so sorry!!!

    • Michele Cushatt

      Oh no! Is it wrong that I want to see a picture?! 😉 So sorry, Janell. But like my good friend Greg always says, “If you can write a check for it, it isn’t a tragedy.”

  6. Lily Kreitinger

    Yep. I hear ya. Just yesterday I put a significant dent on my 10-year-old-too-beaten-up-mom-car. Driving on my own driveway. This wooden crate just came out of nowhere… It’s not like the car hasn’t had its share of dents… But I hate to see one more on it. Sometimes I feel this car is like me… runs well for its age, but its body is slowly falling apart. Funny that my husband just put a big dent on said car a few days ago and I didn’t think anything other than “Bummer!” When I did the same, I kept thinking ‘What is WRONG with me?’ I was in Denver last week and LOVED the electronic road signs on the highway ‘Be like Elsa and Let it GO’ 😀 Here’s to busted garage doors and car dents!

    • Michele Cushatt

      As always, you have great insight, Lily. And you make me laugh. 🙂 Yes, here’s to busted garage doors!


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