If you’ve messed up for good , maybe it’s good you messed up

We walked out the building, and I saw her leaning against the van, crumpled paper in hand, tears streaking  her face. Part of me wanted to walk the other way.

I don’t have time to settle one more fight. One more whine. One more emotional outburst.

But she wouldn’t get in the van. Wouldn’t quit crying. She’s the kid who heaves so hard, as though her heart might burst from all the tears.

With the gentlest hands, I reached for her crumpled paper. She wouldn’t let go.

I couldn’t understand her. Couldn’t see the papers.

With the most broken of hearts, she kept saying the same phrase.

“I messed up for good.”

In case I missed it the first five times, she said it again.

“I messed up for good.”

What did you mess up for good?

What are you crying about?

She slowly unclenched her fingers, allowing me to see the paper causing all the tears. The wrinkly paper showed a maze that instructed you to start at the beginning, find your way through dozens of lines, then make your way to the end.

messed up maze

She had attempted to complete a complicated maze with ink. Once she ran up against a wall, she had no way of erasing her marks in order to start again.

I’ve been there. As recently as today. Messed up with no way to erase the marks. Crumpled attempt in hand, left saying “I messed up for good.”

I held her. It was all I could think to do. We sat against the van, holding the crumpled paper and each other. Tears slowly eased, and one of the older brothers who had been there during the whole time of crying said “Here. It’s okay. You can copy mine.”

He went inside and retrieved another paper, with a fresh maze of lines waiting to be solved. This time, she didn’t have to wonder where each path led, whether it would slam up against a wall or onto the right path. She looked at his paper, and copied each line and made her way through the maze without another tear.

I’ve thought hard about that day. Her copying her way through the maze. If it had been up to me, I’d have made her wait until we arrived home, use a pencil, and make her way through the maze. Say something tried and true like:  “You’ll never learn if you don’t do it yourself.” There’s always some version of that mantra continually running through my head.

Her new maze was crumple-free, perfectly completed, and she loved it.

Maybe sometimes we need someone capable of leading us through the maze. 

It’s a lesson to learn: It’s okay to copy what someone has done if they’ve done it the right way.

She didn’t learn to make her own way through the maze that day. She learned of the kindness of a brother who gave her his maze to copy. Maybe that’s a lesson that’s okay to learn. There’s time to carve out your own path, do your own thing, make your own way.

But all your “on your own” can leave you exhausted and crying, with the only words left being “I messed up for good.”

Sometimes, He only asks that we show up. Be alert. Be present. He’s about to do something new. He promises He’s making a “road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.”

His new thing is often so much better than our crumpled, messed up way we thought we’d make for ourselves. One more “our way” sometimes makes a mess of it all, when He promises that He is The Way. When I’ve lost my way, I remind myself He is the Way. He spoke it, searing it into our stubborn hearts.  When you’re lost and wandering, His Way is the Only Way.

Is there anything better than following someone who is The Way? 

There’s nothing so messed up, He can’t make new pathways and show you The Way.

The God who promised to make a way, became God With Us and became The Way.

There’s nothing so far gone, He can not redeem by His Way.

When you look to Him as The Way, all other ways become unimportant.

God makes a Way

She filled out her maze, copied her older brother’s way, and forgot her tears. I reminded her this morning of her crumpled maze, asking her if she remembers the story of the time her older brother showed her the way. How’d you feel the day he showed you the way, I asked?

“When somebody shows you something, you know how to do it,” she replied.

Then she scampered away. Not realizing the eternal truths ringing in her everyday story.




  1. Theresa says:

    Jamie. You have such a way in writing that cuts through to my deepest of emotions. I read your posts with excitement,and before i get through the first few paragraphs,I’m so close to bursting into tears that i have to stop reading for a few minutes to compose myself. Usually because when i read then is when I’m sitting at a football game or in a Dr office etc and don’t want to make a scene. So. Thank you. Thank you for sharing your gift with us. I know your gift is truly from the Lord. Thank you for stirring my soul

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