Early on in my theological training, I learned that the literal meaning of the word “sin”, was “missing the mark”. As I thought about the definition, I pictured an arrow sticking in a target somewhere outside of the bullseye. I didn’t think much more about it and filed it away.
Recently, as I have begun to chart a course for bringing more change into my life, I have been thinking more about the “sin” word, and its literal meaning. The two meanings seem to have different reactions, sin causes a negative reaction, inside I feel like I’m hanging my head, casting my eyes down. Missing the mark, in turn, causes me to ask questions, wonder about what the mark is, and why did I miss it.
Sin is loaded with meaning. No matter what religion you might have been brought up in, we all know this is not good and we should avoid it. I was told that sin, my sin, was the only thing standing between me and God. I was a worthless sinner, and the only way to fix the situation was to repent of my sin, accept the sacrifice of Jesus, and avoid sinning at all costs. In a spiritual sense, a course was set of denial and avoidance.
Missing the mark on the other hand, gives us a picture of an arrow not hitting its intended target. A misfire, maybe a technique that could be improved on. I could become a better shot. It seems to chart a different course, that at the very least, doesn’t cause me to hang my head, or hide in shame. It places the bow and arrow in my hands, setting me on a path of change and hope, rather than denial and avoidance. The focus becomes on hitting the mark, rather than missing the mark.
These two concepts can tell us a lot about the lives we are living. From a young age, we all realize that we aren’t enough. Who we are and how we act are not always accepted. So we learn to hide or adapt to those first realities. We want to be loved and accepted, but we aren’t more times than not. It mirrors that path of avoidance and denial. We become more familiar with failure than success. We learn about pain and hurt, and we doing anything we can to avoid that. We begin to build a lifestyle around becoming something that can be accepted and loved. It begins to cover over who we started out to be. We become skilled at presenting ourselves in a version that is well liked or at least not rejected. We don’t even notice that we have set the bar low. We don’t notice that we aren’t being loved, just not rejected.
The cost for this style of living, isn’t immediately obvious. We slowly built our defensive layers. Time, rejection, failure can cause us to hide from ourselves. We lose track of ourselves, become confused with who we started out to be, with the version that we have become. In trying to protect ourselves, we have slowly numbed ourselves. Hiding and shame are the raw materials for the shelter we have built. They can protect us from feeling pain and rejection, but the price is numbing ourselves. Those numbing layers also keep real love from getting in or out. It can keep real life from getting in or out.
That sums up the first half of my life, (well, first half if I live to be 120). Focusing on hitting the mark, can start to remove those numbing layers. We can start to uncover who we started out as. We see who we are as we look straight ahead, rather than down at our feet. Who we are is the same, we just need to bring ourselves out of hiding.