A Fresh Look at Mistakes

Gain a new perspective on perfection.

Posted in , Oct 3, 2014

Grand Central Terminal

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12 (NAS)

I was striding through the whirl of humanity at Grand Central Terminal one morning, brooding on a typo I had discovered in something I had recently published. The fact that I could fix it on the digital version was of no comfort. I hated making mistakes, especially ones that everyone could see.


I glanced up at the big departures board to check the train schedule and found my gaze wandering to the magnificent vaulted ceiling arching over the main concourse, a dazzling depiction of the zodiac...except that it’s all wrong. The nineteenth-century artisans misread the blueprints and mistakenly inverted the constellations to create a mirror image of the heavens. 

The Vanderbilt family, builders of the great beaux arts structure, was mortified but quickly concocted a charming explanation: what was portrayed was actually God’s view of the sky from above and beyond the cosmos.

If you look closely enough, there are a couple of dark, grimy panels left by the restorers who lovingly cleaned the ceiling over a decade ago to remind us of what time and neglect will do to beauty. That whole gorgeous canvas is a kind of accidental tribute to the inherent imperfection of human endeavor.

I thought again about my typo. My attack of perfectionism was really an attempt to steal from God an attribute possessed only by Him. I stood there for a moment amid the swarm of morning commuters and smiled. Maybe I wouldn’t fix that typo in the digital version after all.

God, from Your heavenly view You forgive all my many imperfections. Don’t let me forget I’m only human.


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