Let’s face it, no one likes to fail. Some of the most stress I’ve had in my life is coming into a final exam in school knowing that there might be a possibility I’d bomb the test. That’s why I spent so much time preparing for finals, long hours “cramming” and then trying to manage my test stress by mustering up all the stress-relieving exercises and deep-breathing I could remember in order to calmly write the test. I still have nightmares of coming late to an exam and not being able to find the right classroom – or worse, all the classrooms not having doorknobs so I can’t get in. (Yeah, that’s fodder for another blog posting in the future.)
The thing is, as I have gone through school, university and seminary, I knew if I did not do well in the course, I could always do a “repeat” if I wanted. In fact, there were some of my over-achieving friends who were not satisfied with just getting a “B” in an exam (something I only dreamed about in math), they would repeat just so they could get “A’s”! Can’t say I’ve ever done that.
Success never really came easily for me. I’ve always had to work very, very hard to get good marks and I don’t think I’ve ever gone into any exam confident that I would pass. The same, I guess, is true as I grew into adulthood, started my career in teaching and writing, became a wife, Mom and a grandmother. I’ve never ever claimed that I’ve had all the right answers, or done all the right things in any of those roles. I try my best, work very, very hard, and send up a lot of “HELP me!” prayers to God for daily wisdom when I struggle. I will be honest, sometimes I have failed but it is in those failures that I have learned the most. It is in the failures I have grown in character.
I welcome success! Love the accolades, the awards, the pats on the back, the “well dones”, that seem to follow success. Nothing gets my ego boosted or my pride elevated more so than success. Unfortunately, that has problems in itself. Success leads to self-reliance and I spend less time dependent on God because I feel like I can do things on my own strength. If I think that my success was all about ME then I’ve wasted the opportunity to testify to God’s faithfulness.
I welcome failure! I despise the hurt, the anxiety, the “I messed up” guilt and the heart ache of failure but I welcome it just the same. It is in the failures that I learn how to do better, how to be a better wife, mother, teacher, writer, and grandmother. I might learn that from success too, but I lean on God more in the failures because I must derive every ounce of courage and fortitude from Him alone because then I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. I learn that He will give me “do-overs” sometimes to turn failures into successes and then I can give glory to Whom it’s due…not ME…but God!
There is a fundamental principle here. Although I don’t set out to fail…who does? Sometimes God must engineer failure in us before He can bring about success with us. Our failures bring about the necessary changes in our character, so we can become people God can use for His purposes.
If you are experiencing failure today, don’t give up, don’t despair, and don’t be so prideful that you refuse to accept and deal with the failure. This is your opportunity to turn to God, let Him grow you through the experience. He might allow a “do-over” or He might just comfort and provide loving wise-counsel so you can move on.
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14