Four Lessons Typos Have Taught Me About Grace

For a writer, typos are like mosquitoes. Always annoying. Usually frustrating. Sometimes, downright infuriating.

Discovering a typo in a published article or book can ruin my day, making me feel defeated and deflated, catapulting my mind (and soul) into an obsession to fix the error and undo the damage.

This is what happened over the past week as I read my Passion Week meditations each evening at the dinner table for “family time.” In the middle of the devotion, I would catch a mistake, which would cause me to pause, lose my train of thought, and grimace. Not the super-enjoyable experience for the family that I had envisioned.

Then I realized those posts had been published on three different writing platforms. Oh, no! Others were grimacing, too. Not because of their mistake, but in judgment of mine.

As I scrambled from the dinner table to my basement study, I began to update each post — on Medium, on WordPress, my paperback and Kindle versions, and on my blog. It was exhausting.

Yes, typos are like mosquitoes. Always annoying. Usually frustrating. Sometimes, downright infuriating.

This time a silver lining appeared in the clouds in the form of lessons that my typos have been teaching me about grace. I thought I’d share them in hopes that some other writer out there (or anyone else who makes mistakes) might be encouraged and helped. If you can relate, this is for you.

1. I have blind spots.

Sometimes, when I’m driving I’ll ask a passenger if there is anything in my blind spot, the area just behind the car outside the view of the rear or side mirrors. New cars and trucks now come equipped with “blind spot detection,” a little light that illuminates in the side mirror if a vehicle is occupying the driver’s blind spot.

Writers have blind spots, too, which is why even professional writers have professional editors. For example, I can read over a manuscript ten times and not catch the misspelled or misplaced word. Usually, I have already re-written the piece so many times that scraps of editorial content I intended to cut out get left in. That scrap content becomes blind spot material.

Every writer who is continually producing new material has blind spots, and that’s okay. It is the same reason why professional athletes have coaches. Regardless of our craft, we will never reach perfection. We can only pursue improvement and progress. To that end, we need editors, coaches, and friends, which leads to the second lesson.

2. I need the insight and input of others.

Not only as a writer but as a human being, I need others to help me see my blind spots. Sometimes my blind spots are grammatical, but sometimes they are moral. Not only does a writer need editors, but believers need each other to help us see areas of our lives that need to come under the influence and control of the Holy Spirit. Self-righteous anger. Pride. A spirit of entitlement. Jealousy. Greed. These are just some of the things that hide where my mirrors can’t see.

A huge lesson my typos have taught me is not only how critical community is for the Christian, but how vital teachability is for the disciple of Jesus. As a writer, I often will push back against the suggestion of an editor. By nature, I want compliments, not critique and correction. But I will not make progress with the pen until I am willing to confess the limitations of my ability. Until I am teachable.

That is what disciple means, anyway. He or she is a learner who follows the example and guidance of someone else. Obviously, a Christian is a disciple (a learner-follower) of Christ, the professor in God’s school of grace, where students make it their aim to conform every aspect of their lives to that grace which defines those who follow Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Every disciple is given various talents and abilities with which they are empowered to contribute to the advance of the gospel as members of the Kingdom of God. But these gifts are limited and imperfect. As a result, we need the insight and input of others as we live as teachable believers in community.

3. The illusion of perfection is a false gospel.

When I have used a proofreader, I am stunned by how many typos remain in a document I assumed was relatively “clean” or errors. Ah, but remember the blind spot. The moment I deny the blind spot is the precipice of authorial stupidity — thinking far too highly of one’s self. And the proverb becomes reality as pride goes before a fall.

When a typo is revealed in a published work, either a simple blog post or in a full-length book, it tends to have a disproportionate impact on me as a writer. For all the good that is there, one mistake can bring the entire edifice down upon my heart like a house of cards.

Why do I get so panicked to discover a typo?

I want to be perfect. Not just a good writer, but a great writer. The best writer. At this point, if I could accurately analyze my heart, I’d find the idol of self-righteousness functionally defining my identity. I may claim that Jesus is my righteousness with my lips, but my anxiety would reveal where my true hope is being found — in writing perfection, which is an illusion of a false gospel.

4. Jesus uses my imperfection to magnify his grace.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7b-10, the apostle Paul wrote about his lesson with grace,

In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Maybe to keep authors from pursuing “writer righteousness,” the Lord has given us typos. Like mosquitoes (and other thorns) for the rest of humanity, we must endure the annoyance, frustration, and infuriation of spelling blunders and grammatical gaffes. But the point is clear enough. Even typos are intended to show us that regardless of how flawed our writing (and our lives), we are those who live by grace through the all-sufficient sacrifice of Jesus, who shed his blood, giving his life as white-out for all our sin. As a result, we no longer boast in our own worthless righteousness, but in his priceless gift-righteousness.

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