The Blame Game

It was Saturday… the last day of my family’s Spring Break. My wife (who is a teacher) and my two boys had been out of school all week. So, we wrapped up their mini-vacation with an overnight trip to the Big D. The trip was all about them; I was happy to put my work, projects, and hobbies on hold. Well, all but one. You see, it was also the day before the Rock N’ Roll Half-Marathon in Dallas. So, we needed to stop by the convention center to pick up my race packet. I picked up my info, gave it a quick glance, and hit the road to come back home to Oklahoma. I knew I would soon be repeating the trip, but I never questioned whether I’d make it in time. I went to bed that night with plans to run a race the next day. When I woke up, however, I found myself playing the oldest game known to man: The Blame Game.

I woke up around 7:45 a.m. with a text from my buddy, Ryan, asking if I was close to the venue. It seemed like a weird question. “We don’t run until 2:30 p.m., right?” He text back that we’re supposed to run at 8:15 a.m.. That meant the race would begin in 30 minutes, and I was an hour and a half away. How could I have screwed this up so badly?

I pulled out the paperwork that I had previously only given a quick glance. There it was, just as I had thought; 2:30. This was my first 1/2 marathon, but even I remember thinking it strange to run in the afternoon. I had even text Ryan upon first reading this info simply saying, “Man, it’s going to be warm when we run.” Too bad we didn’t follow up on why I thought that. As I read it a little closer, I finally understood that the 2:30 stood for 2 hours and 30 minutes. That was my expected finish time. Sure enough, as I rushed through the paperwork, I saw that I was in fact late. Way late!

Sure, it would serve me well to read details a little closer. However, what I lack in preparation, I make up for in dedication. Well, I try to anyway. Though I knew I’d be an hour late to the race, I also knew that 1/2 marathons take awhile. So what if I get a late start? So what if I come in last? I just wanted to run. So, I sped to downtown Dallas only to find that the start line had already been disassembled. I thought maybe I could join other runners on the route somewhere, but there was no sign of anyone except those coming in for the last mile. Even I am not pathetic enough to accept the homestretch cheers of running only 1/13th of a race.

Yep, I screwed up. I was disappointed and embarrassed. Perhaps even more embarrassing is how I dealt with it. I soon found myself blaming everyone. I blamed the race company for not making their instructions clearer and not letting us get our packets more than 24 hours in advance. Sure, the instructions and logistics worked just fine for thousands of other racers. That’s not the point.

I also blamed the company with whom I had reserved guaranteed parking. The lot was full when I arrived. So, I spent 10 minutes trying to find somewhere to park. Forget arriving an hour after the race had already started. Those 10 minutes are what really sealed my fate.

I even blamed my family. We should have never planned a vacation (even a small one) on the same week that I had a race. Don’t they know how important this is to me? We had a wonderful time, but making lifetime memories of family fun is overrated. Right?

You don’t have to say it. I know how ridiculous I sound. The blame game is the oldest game in the Book (Genesis 3), and its origins can be traced all the way back to Adam and Eve. Adam blamed his sinning on both Eve and God. Eve blamed the serpent. When it was all said and done, God held both Adam and Eve (and the serpent) accountable for their own actions. As a result, they had to face their own unique consequences.

I have thought a lot about why my first instinct was to blame others, and I think it was just easier than the alternative. For me, the alternative was a rabbit hole of shame and fleeting self-esteem. I found myself remembering every stupid mistake I’ve ever made. “Why am I so stupid,” I asked. “Why do I ALWAYS screw EVERYTHING up?” Satan loves this. He relishes in our self-deprecation and selective memory.

When Adam and Eve first sinned, our all-knowing God asked, “Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (Gen 3:11). Of course, God knew the answer. However, He gave humanity’s first couple the opportunity to set a pattern for how we would cope with our mistakes. Since then, we have come to understand that the most detrimental sins and mistakes are those from which we learn nothing. And the first step in learning from our mistakes is to own them.

I am getting better about recognizing my own responsibility for my mistakes. I know that God’s grace covers the sins of my past, present, and future. I’m not saying I’ll never play the blame game again, but His grace is sufficient for that too. After all, our spiritual growth isn’t an event, and it’s not a race; it’s a half-marathon!

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