So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
Today my streak climbed to 130 consecutive days of Spanish lessons on Duolingo. If you're not familiar with Duolingo, it's a language learning app. It has collected a cult following because of its immersive approach, game-like lessons, and unorthodox marketing techniques. I get a notification regularly from a cartoon emo teen girl named Lily telling me maybe I should do today's lesson...."or don't. whatever. what do I care." And for some unknown reason, I desperately want her to think I'm cool. But I don't want her to know that.
Anyway, I am on a quest to spend a few minutes each day reclaiming my old Spanish skills and forming new ones. But because I'm cheap, I have the free version. That means I only get five "hearts," and each time I make a mistake, I lose one, so I need to be very careful. And if I lose them all, I am shut down for hours for my hearts to get restored. ¡Ten cuidado, amigos!
The free version also means that I have to watch a brief advertisement every time I complete a 5-minute lesson. And the one that runs most regularly is (you guessed it) the ad for the paid version of Duolingo, creatively titled: Super Duolingo.
And in the video, every single time I sit through it, they mention the same incredible perk: Try Super Duolingo! With infinite hearts, there are NO LIMITS to the mistakes you can make!
How inspiring. Seriously, every time I hear them say that, I am discouraged at their lack of faith in my linguistic skills. But also, I can't help but think: would infinite hearts actually motivate me to try? Aren't I motivated to focus particularly because if I don't, I'll be shut down?
But they back up their offer with stats: Super Duolingo learners are four times more likely to complete their courses than the rest of us! Apparently the statistics show that the best learning environment includes the freedom to fail regularly, rather than the pressure to perform.
It appears that Jesus agrees, as he seems to promote the view that there's no limit to the amount of times we should forgive each other, and that God's acceptance of us is never based on our lack of mistakes. And the early church seemed to support this as well, with Paul proclaiming that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Not mistakes, not struggles. Nothing in all the world. It's all grace upon grace if we're walking with Jesus.
The Lent season is very much about embracing our humanity with Jesus, and coming to grips with our frailty. It's about admitting that we are in need of a doctor, and graciously receiving the truth that Jesus said he specifically came for people who can admit their need. Infinite hearts! No limit to the mistakes you can make...
The upside down part of God's kingdom, however, is that receiving grace for our imperfections will not give us license to do whatever we'd like. As people who experience radical grace constantly, it's the very power of that grace that inspires us to stay the course, moving ever more toward the way of love and faithfulness, even when we fall short of our ideals. The freedom to fail moves us toward a deeper commitment to learn, grow, and love more deeply, rather than 1). crushing guilt, or 2). a free-for-all to act however selfishly we want to.
Have you remembered that there is enough grace today for you to walk freely in love and trust? When the heart is postured toward Jesus, the knowledge of God's infinite grace for us creates a culture of unlimited growth in us. And by God's grace, it will lead us to speak fluently the language of love to all those we encounter each day.
Jesus, help me live out of the gift of grace again today.