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McCoy: Life lessons learned
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"Make your ways known to me, Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth - teach it to me - because you are the God who saves me. I put my hope in you all day long. Lord, remember your compassion and faithful love - they are forever! But don't remember the sins of my youth or my wrongdoing. Remember me only according to your faithful love for the sake of your goodness, Lord."
Psalm 25:4-8
(Common English Bible)

Have you ever heard people talk about "being young and foolish?" When we were younger, we had to learn things either by another's teaching or by our own mistakes. We sometimes call this kind of learning as attending the School of Hard Knocks. Sometimes, the hardest lessons we ever learn are those that we learn from our own mistakes, but you can bet that those are also the ones we are least likely to forget. Have you had any experiences in which you learned valuable lessons that you still have not forgotten?

I remember riding along in my car on Interstate 16 in south Georgia as I headed home for the weekend from college.

The stretch of highway between Macon and Swainsboro was always one of the loneliest stretches of road I had ever seen. It was unusual to see more than a few cars the entire way, and they were very well spaced, sometimes with miles in between each one. As I drove along by myself, I would switch lanes once in a while just to keep the trip interesting. Life in the left lane looked a little different from that in the right lane, I suppose.

I will never forget as I rode along in the left lane on that lonely stretch of highway one lazy summer afternoon, I was surprised by the policeman who pulled up behind me with lights flashing. I thought that he must have needed to get around, so I calmly pulled over to the right lane to let him pass. I was taken aback a bit when the officer pulled over behind me, lights still flashing as we slowed to a stop. Not knowing what I could have done wrong, I rehearsed the details in my mind: my speed, which was within legal limits, my steadiness and caution, my alertness -

No, I had no idea what was wrong. Maybe one of my lights was not working or something was wrong with my car. As I learned from our little chat that day, one needs only to ride in the left lane of a multiple lane highway if one is passing someone else, and as there was no one on the road for miles, I had no excuse to be in the left lane. With major apologies, I promised to learn from this experience and was given a verbal warning. Even though it didn't make sense to me at the time, many years later, and with many more miles under my driving belt, I have seen many occasions where this little principle has come in handy.

The Psalmist tells us that we are to ask God to teach us God's ways. When we ask God to teach us, we learn that God is the faithful, loving savior who has compassion for us and who loves us so much more than we will ever be able to imagine. When we confess our sins and failures to God, we can be confident that God removes our sins "as far as the east is from the west." (Psalm 103:12) And while we should learn from our mistakes and our youthful errors, we can take comfort in knowing that God doesn't hold those against us.

What youthful sins still haunt you? Ask God to forgive them, and then take courage and confidence in knowing that you are forgiven.

Rev. Jan McCoy is the associate pastor of Covington First United Methodist Church in downtown Covington. She may be reached at