formation friday: screwing up as spiritual formation

I make a lot of mistakes. I say stupid things I regret. I dig holes when I should lay down my shovel. I hurt people unintentionally. I hit “send” on emails when I wish I hadn’t. I write things on my blog that sometimes make me cringe later.

The past few months I had some extra screw ups, moments where I wish I could turn time back, where I knew I said too much and it caused more damage. There were moments where if I had a video editing machine and could rewind, I’d definitely clip that part out immediately and just keep the good parts (wouldn’t that be an amazing feature?)

But alas, life doesn’t work that way.

Once certain things happen, they happen. We can’t take back certain words or actions or we can’t erase what happened to relieve our anxiety.

I have been thinking about this a lot this past few weeks after feeling extremely vulnerable and having a pretty decent run on the “can I please just get in my red convertible and drive west and never come back?” feelings. I’ve come to this conclusion–part of my screw ups are because I’m showing up.

That’s a spiritual practice, too.

And when we show up, we will screw up more.

We will say more, do more, try more, put ourselves out there more.

That’s a good thing. When I’m hiding, playing it safe, going through the motions–I don’t make as many mistakes; but when I’m most “me”, I am sure to make more mistakes.

I have recently been thinking a lot about how screwing up is spiritual formation.

Usually, when we talk about spiritual formation, it comes in the context of prayer, of silence and solitude, of finding ways to connect with God through different spiritual disciplines and practices. Those things feel “spiritual.”

But last week I had a really rich and amazing formation experience when I let my screw ups be the thing that drew me toward God and helped me connect with what was going on in my soul.

It surprised me, in a good way.

I went through the regular run-down after my mistake–shame, regret, “why in the $(#&!&!( did I say that?”, replaying it all and wishing I had done it totally differently.

Then, instead of wallowing there, instead of beating the daylights out of myself, instead of doing what is familiar and easy for me, I decided to re-frame my mistake as an opportunity to grow.

I talked with God about it like I would talk to a friend and felt this weird thing come back at me in a deep place inside, sweet and kind soul whispers that reminded me:

I’m human.

I can’t “un-show-up”

I’m human.

I need grace; it’s easy for me to give it but hard for me to believe others will give it to me.

Vulnerability like this comes from actually playing and risking my heart and being present instead of hiding, protecting, staying above others.

I’m human.

Screwing up is a good thing because it reminds me of that. Not that I’m this horrible person in desperate need of God’s grace for every little mistake or I will be completely ruined. But that I’m human, doing the best I can with what I have, and God’s grace and presence and love and conviction is present in the midst of it–shaping me, forming me, challenging me, healing me.

I often reflect on Jesus’ words to Paul and how he begged Jesus to take the thorn out of his side, but his response was–“My grace is sufficient for you; for my power is made perfect in your weakness.”

Whenever I have read those words, it’s easy to go yeah, yeah, God’s grace is good. But honestly, inside, I can feel myself screaming, “No, I don’t want to be weak! I don’t want to screw up! I don’t want to be human!”

But I am.

God’s grace is there.

People’s grace might be there, too.

And giving myself grace is a beautiful possibility.

I have some situations and circumstances in my life that continue to be hard, and as much I try to “solve” them I keep realizing certain things aren’t solvable, no matter how hard I might try to juke and jive and figure a way around the hard. The best thing I can do is embrace that through each and every mistake, each and every struggle, each and every screw up, I am learning something.

And damn, how I hate that and love that at the same time.


ps: I haven’t written a formation friday in a long time, but there’s a whole list of them here. they go from oldest at the bottom to most recent on top.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • ‘But that I’m human, doing the best I can with what I have, and God’s grace and presence and love and conviction is present in the midst of it–shaping me, forming me, challenging me, healing me.’
    I’m finding that even when I screw up, people still respond to me. I’m learning to say, “I’m not very good at having this discussion (or whatever); but I’m trying. Tell me when I’ve crossed a line. Help me learn and get better.” The safer people in my life that I’m learning to say that to are really responsive and supportive.
    Hope your Christmas has fun-filled moments (and you get that red convertible!).

  • One of the hardest persons to give Grace is to myself, but I’m learning. Thanks for giving clarity in this. Like you, I can’t “un-show up”! So I embrace the screw ups, too!

  • I love the thought that showing up, screwing up could be an authentic practice in our spirituality. Being human is a beautiful paradox with a lot of mystery to it. To become aware of God in our most vulnerable places is so difficult, but necessary to becoming human. Thanks Kathy! Blessings this Christmas season!

  • I love your honesty and vulnerability, it’s human and people are longing for human right now. In a world of pre-packaged feel good answers there is a deep longing for the authentic, and you my friend are authentic and it’s refreshing. Most of us are completely aware that we are broken and weak and we are desperately trying to not expose ourselves as such but in my experience when we do we find incredible solidarity, I am just realizing these thoughts might require a blog on my own website (shameless plug) keep doing what you’re doing it’s encouraging and needed 🙂


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