When I was growing up, tardiness was a big deal at school. I always felt bad for the kids whose parents were generally running behind, because those kids were taking the flack at school for something they had little control over. When you’re 13, you’re at the mercy of your mother’s timing. If one of these poor souls had a note to offer the secretary they were saved. “Please excuse my son…” These few simple words were a powerful shield from administrative wrath. An excuse became a saving grace.
The problem with an excuse as grace is this: the longer you hold onto an excuse the less grace it offers and the more toxic it becomes. In order to maintain the excuse one must conform to the parameters of the excuse. These parameters dictate how to behave, what can be done or is out of reach.
In her book Mindset, Dr. Dweck calls these constraining parameters a fixed mindset. A person believes they are who they are, they have the skills and qualities they have, and none of this can grow or change. Excuses play a big role in the self-preservation of a fixed mindset.
Often the excuse-shields build up on top of each other until they form a wall, or a fortress even. This internal wall, which was meant to keep threats out, end up trapping the person in. It leaves them unable to move forward in their lives and careers.
The excuse-dictators were revealed in Moses’ life when he encountered God in the wilderness. God appears to Moses as a burning bush. Moses draws near to get a closer look and receives a call to advocate release for Israel before Pharaoh. Moses quickly gives his first excuse, something along the lines of being a nobody. God responds by eliminating the excuse by giving Moses validation and says “I’ll go with you and you can use My somebody-ness.” (Ex. 3:1-12)
I imagine that Moses was somewhat dismayed by the loss of his excuse. So he offers a better one. Moses tells God that His people probably won’t go with him since he doesn’t know God’s name. Again, God eliminates the excuse and tells Moses His name “I AM WHO I AM.” (Aka Jehovah, aka Yaweh, depending on your transliteration) God also tells Moses what to do to back up the revelation of His name. Just to be thorough God also tells Moses what to say to Pharaoh. (Ex. 3:13-22)
Moses tries the next excuse, “Yeah, but what if Your support and Your name and this speech You’ve given me isn’t enough and they still don’t believe me?” God graciously doesn’t get caught up in being told He isn’t enough, and opts for eliminating this excuse too. He gives Moses three miracles that he can perform on command. They even practice them there at the bush so Moses knows how to handle them when the moment comes. (Ex. 4:1-9)
Now you’d think Moses would be embarrassed by now and humbly accept the call, the support, the name, the speech, and the three miracles. But he doesn’t. Moses just moves onto the next excuse, “I’m not great at delivering speeches, or talking at all really.” This time God shows some irritation while reminding Moses who created mouths, tongues, and speech itself. He then promises to be with Moses’ mouth specifically and teach him how to speak! (Ex. 4:10-12)
At this point Moses gives up on all personal pride and dignity by flat out begging God to send someone else. We’re told that God was angered by this, but He still has grace for Moses. God tells Moses that He already has his brother Aaron coming to meet him. Aaron is a Levite and great at public speaking and will be able to help Moses bear the burden of this calling. Finally, Moses agrees to go. (Ex. 4:13-18)
All this to say that God is an excuse eliminator. There wasn’t an excuse Moses offered that God didn’t have a way to solve. He still does this today. The last time I offered God a myriad of excuses He spent the next year setting things into place in such a way that every one of my excuses were eliminated. I looked at how much my life had changed and said to myself, “This is a Moses moment. I better go ahead and do that thing God wanted.”
God wants to liberate us from these little excuse-dicatorships in our lives. He wants to be on the throne of our hearts. Once He’s there, He sets us free to become more than we thought possible. God’s call might feel overwhelming and upsetting, and we may offer up our excuses. But remember who gave the call, whose name we carry. Remember that God is bigger than all the excuses and He will remove them if your offer them to Him. But you know what? Let Him, He’s better protection than excuse anyway.
Mindset, The New Psychology of Success. Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. 2016. Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
*This book was a game changer for me and I highly recommend the read. Dr. Dweck doesn’t just talk about fixed mindset, she also expounds on what she calls a growth mindset. She talks about both types of mindsets in a variety of settings. The research is thorough and so revealing of how much the way we think really matters.