Southwest UMC

Jesus and the Art of Improv, Week 4: There are No Mistakes

This Week’s Text: Mark 10:35-45

The fourth and final rule is that there are no mistakes, only opportunities. In improv, this rule, especially when combined with the first rule to say “yes,” allows us to discover new things together when we let go of our need to be right and follow where the group wants to go together.

When we take this rule out of improv and place it into the real world, we have to sort of reshape the concept a little bit. The truth is that there are mistakes and there is failure. Of course, when we bump our terminology over to the realm of faith, we call mistakes “sin” and the Bible tells us something we know from personal experience—all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

That’s why we must learn to see mistakes as not simply failures, but as opportunities. Writer Seth Godin says the two biggest mistakes people make is taking it too personally and being unable to move forward and not taking it personally enough and not learning from failure.

Today’s Scripture has two brothers, James and John, asking Jesus if they can sit at his right and left in glory right after Jesus has taught a bunch about humility and serving others. I don’t think I have to do too much convincing to see this request as a mistake. James and John, along with Peter, are within Jesus’ inner circle—the three disciples who seem closest to Jesus. I find it hard to believe that they had no ability to understand the stuff Jesus was teaching about humility and service.

So, here were are in the middle of a mistake. Jesus has every right to yell at these guys. But he doesn’t. He sees their mistake as an opportunity and turns around and gives us one of the most memorable teachings on servanthood. But here’s the thing this week: this can’t be where we stop. We know this is what Jesus is like. We need to be reminded of it at times, but the bigger question is what we do with that opportunity.

James and John got it. They went onto be, as Paul described them, pillars of the church. James was the first disciple martyred for his faith, showing that he had learned to give his life for God’s glory rather than his own. John would go onto lend his name to multiple New Testament writings, including the letter of 1 John, which contains some of the most compelling and beautiful passages on serving others before yourself.

And so, as we close, as I have each week, I want to encourage you to try out this rule of improv in your life this week. When you find yourself in the middle of a mistake or a failure or a sin, how do you respond? Do you take it too personally and shut down? Do you try to shift blame, refuse to take responsibility, and in doing so fail to learn and grow? Or do you see your mistakes as opportunities to grow? Are you willing to take even just a few moments to be intentional about learning from your failures and see how your growth can benefit more than just yourself but might lead to making Christ more visible in and through you?