It has been a long time since I wrote… The later part of my fourth pregnancy, combined with holidays and work transitions, plus normal family life activities, left me pretty drained and lacking in blog-worthy thoughts… Or at least lacking the energy to write and post them! However, I recently welcomed my baby into my arms, and I find myself awake in quiet hours of night. It is amazing what you can write on an iPhone while nursing or rocking a baby!
Last night I had a conversation with some friends, about hopes and fears, and I began to think about how I have dealt with failure in my life. I am a generally ambitious, goal-oriented person, and I like to do my best to achieve WELL whatever it is I pursue. Failure, naturally, is not something that is easy to face, especially for one who really likes to win does whatever is in her power to be positioned to win/succeed. As I often tell my kids, “no one gets what they want ALL the time.” So, I have had to learn to deal with failure. Here are a few things I have learned.

Sometimes failure gets you in position for something else, and without the failure, you wouldn’t be ready for it. When I was in college I ran for ASB president. I was the better qualified but less “dynamic” candidate. I lost by a very close margin. (And I think I’m impartial when I say the guy elected was not a good president!) But because I lost, I instead started helping with the youth group at my church and eventually became youth pastor. That was an extremely pivotal and fulfilling time in my life.

Sometimes what I see as failure is something that God doesn’t even care about (such as how I felt about our finances when we had to short-sale our home before moving up from California). What is more important to God about where we lived were the relationships in our neighborhood. With our financial “failings” God cares more for our unity and the journey in our marriage and faith as we deal with setbacks, than he cares about how much is in the bank account. God has always provided for us, even though part of that provision meant we lived with my parents for 9 months last year. Again, our relationships were more important to God than whatever cultural standards would say was financial success. We would not have as strong a relationship with my parents and ended up in our current schools and house had we not stayed with them when first arriving.

Sometimes an idea/project proposal isn’t accepted, but the work I put into it still developed me as a person. Research and effort into a “failed” project could still be an important part of what I need to understand/know or do for a later assignment from God.

Sometimes it serves to help me understand other people better, because though I am not prone to addiction, depression, etc. there have been times when I’ve been in backup there and then it helps me understand how others can be stuck there for longer.

God is more concerned with the journey than where I think the goal ought to lead me. Failure in my eyes or the world’s eyes is sometimes success in God’s eyes, because he is more concerned with my character and relationship with Him than he is with my accomplishments.

Sometimes I look at other people’s day to day “failures” and think “grow up!” when a mistake they made is obvious to me- a mistake I would never make because I think more logically and less emotionally, for example. But I realize that though my mistakes are different, they are no less. I have to apologize just as often, only for different things, that to another person are just as obvious to them as their failings are to me.

I’ve had plenty of other failures- to make the team, to launch the small group, to get the job, to catch the boy, or stop the teenager or the friend from making a big mistake when it feels like I should have been there for them more and seen what was coming…

The pastor of the church where I was first youth pastor had a great philosophy: he said he’d rather we tried and failed, than played it safe in our ideas and goals for our ministries and never try anything new or different. I think his leadership, as well as looking at my own life twists and turns (either for the surprisingly better or for the lesson) taught me to not fear failure.

Sometimes when I am anxious or afraid I will imagine the worst case scenario. Usually it’s not really THAT bad. And even if it is, imagining coming to terms with that, and realizing God will be with me even then, gives me courage for what will most likely not turn out nearly so bad.

Failure is part of life. Just like sickness, death, and taxes. No one succeeds at everything they try unless they live a really unadventurous life… And even then we all have personal failures. Don’t fear failure, learn from it and see where it leads. You might be pleasantly surprised!

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