by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.

You might wonder how remodeling a house could lead to spiritual insights about life. I was surprised myself at the unexpected twist.

I waited years to remodel our master bedroom. Something was always coming up that demanded our time, attention and money — and we kept putting the remodeling on the backburner. But finally the day arrived and the project was underway.

One special aspect of the master bathroom was a mural surrounding our new tub — painted by a friend, who is a phenomenal artist.

Since my favorite view is of the ocean, my friend created a scene so that when I soaked in the tub I could imagine myself by the water’s edge — with waves crashing, palm trees swaying, sandpipers standing at attention on the sand, and seagulls flying overhead.

A surprise in this seaside picture was an island on the horizon. When I praised my friend’s work, she told me she had not initially planned to paint the island. She had made a mistake with her brush, and in trying to determine how best to correct it, she turned her mistake into an island. It was the perfect addition to an already awe-inspiring painting. Truly, a masterpiece. A glimpse of God’s creation with every detail in its perfect place.

Lately, as I look at her mistake, I realize that I can’t even imagine the scene without it. And this has caused me to reflect on mistakes I’ve made in my life. I’ve wondered what my life would be today without those mistakes.

My most vivid memory of a life-altering mistake was when I was placed on academic suspension from college my freshmen year. Not that the suspension was a mistake but rather the result of my poor study skills and more time spent in social activities than in classes.

For a while, I was devastated and depressed. I was forced to leave my new friends and a new boyfriend and to leave my new home and return to my parent’s home. I didn’t know what to do with my life.

Not long after going back to live with my parents, I received an encouraging letter from my college advisor. She explained that the word “suspend” also meant to “uphold by invisible support.” I could know I was also being supported by the school’s hopes and expectation of my return. I appreciated this definition, as it began to shift my viewpoint from self-pity to looking forward.

I also struggled with guilt. I realized I had made many mistakes in judgment that led to my current plight. I felt horrible. I felt I had let my parents down. Although they were compassionate toward me, I knew they had to be disappointed in me. I know I was.

I felt like I was floundering at the beginning of my adulthood. In search of solutions and encouragement, I turned to the Scriptures and the various writings of Mary Baker Eddy. These resources had supported my prayers in the past. Surely, there would be answers now.

I started keeping a journal. As I studied, prayed, pondered and listened, I wrote in my journal. Quotes. Insights. Questions. Inspirations. Ideas. I also spent time with my parents — praying, reading and reasoning together. Something I had not done in a long time. We had wonderful discussions. I felt blessed for the time we were sharing together.

It was the inspiring ideas in a column titled “Improve your time” by Eddy that changed my point of view from inadequacy and failure to the woman of God’s creating — a woman possessing the ability and talents needed to be successful. She wrote about how to achieve success in one’s life with persistent effort and the improvement of moments — how to stop wasting time and move from indecision about what to do. She said, “If one would be successful in the future, let him make the most of the present.”

Leaving past mistakes behind me, I focused on present possibilities. Soon, a job opportunity presented itself. One that taught me much about unselfish care for others’ needs. I enrolled in a community college, where I took several remedial classes and workshops to improve my reading and writing skills. And I continued to cherish time with my parents.

A few months later, I returned to my home college. Three years later, I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree with the senior class award for “progress.”

Life-changing lessons were learned from the mistakes of my freshmen year. And time spent with my step-dad during those months became all the more precious to me when he passed on shortly after I returned to college. I then saw my time home as a gift. A gift I might not have had without those mistakes that sent me home.

No, I don’t think I can imagine my life today without any of my past mistakes.

Learning from our mistakes, growing wiser because of them, we progress into the masterpiece of God’s beholding. His eternal and constant view of His beloved children — strong, intelligent, loving, healthy. . . good.