Fail, Fail, Fail, Again?
“I love failure!” said no one, ever.
In fact, most likely you’ve said the exact opposite, right? “I hate failure!”
This summer, God gave me the most magnificent opportunity to learn about failure. I knew in the middle of the lesson that he was teaching me that I was about to enter a season of life that would stretch me and my ideas about failure and imperfection.
You might wonder if imperfection and failure are one in the same. You would be right to ask that. In my mind, at this moment, they are inextricably linked. And with God’s help, I’m working on that.
First, let’s start with my summer failure story. My family and I went to Lakeside, OH for vacation this year. It was amazing, as usual, except for one really big problem. I signed up for a beginning sailing class. In 5 two-hour classes, I could get certified in Level One sailing and learn how to sail a Sunfish on my own.
Sounds great, right? Especially for a girl who LOVES the water: swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, etc. I expected it to be easy. Usually my water sense is innate. But somehow this was anything but easy for me. The 10 hour course ended up taking more like 30 hours.
There were no-wind days and too-windy days, and I just couldn’t get the hang of it. I was great in the classroom, but on the water, I could not figure out the points of sail quick enough to be an effective sailor. To say that I hated my inability to excel on the water is an understatement. To top it off, the instructor, inadvertently I’m sure, frequently used me as the example for what not to do. Can we say, shame storm anyone?
Sailing and Failing
My pride couldn’t sink lower. Yet, it did. One day I turtled the boat (as in, the boat is completely upside down), and no one was coming to help. The water was choppy, and I was exhausted. I tried to right the boat, but couldn’t. I had to be rescued by two hot shot teens on an inflatable dinghy. In one word, the whole experience was SuckTacular!
I got to shore and found a tree to hide behind, then cried for a full 30 minutes. “That’s it!” I said to God and the Cottonwood tree. “I’m NOT going out tomorrow. I am DONE with sailing. Do you hear me, Done!” I had already gotten back on the proverbial horse after being thrown multiple times already that week, and I didn’t think I could face one more day of sailing after that day’s catastrophe.
Rising After Failure
Even as I sat there and cried, I knew in my heart that this was an experience God was using to humble me. I realized that in one month I’d be starting a brand new writing career where I had ZERO experience. I was giving up being a librarian, where (not trying to brag) I did a great job most of the time. There wasn’t really anything I was scared to do or unable to conquer with enough grit and determination (except maybe a live TV interview).
As I sat there under the tree, I realized that I could not give up and pack it in. If I expected perfection from myself all the time then I would never be able to try anything new. So, I struggled to a standing position and limped my broken spirit home to the rental we were staying in. Once inside, I went upstairs to change. On the wall, there was a plaque I hadn’t noticed before. It said this:
“You cannot control the wind, but you can adjust your sails.“
The Truth Can Sting
I’m pretty sure I swore at it, I can’t quite remember. But then I wrote the quote down, because it was true. My literal problem on the water was that I was having trouble adjusting my sails. Instead I fought the wind the whole time. A fruitless pursuit, for sure.
Figuratively, I knew there was more to this quote. I stood there praying about my terrible (horrible, no good, very bad) day. I knew the quote was a reminder for me to dig deep for some true grit.
Though I could not control what I perceived as a failure that day, I could adjust the sails of my attitude and emotions in order to try again tomorrow. So, I did just that. I tried again the next day, and I got certified for Level One sailing by the grace of God.
I wish I could say that my tendencies for expecting perfection of myself disappeared that day. HA! Wouldn’t you like to think that? Me, too, friend.
However, I was correct about how my perceptions of failure and rising would be a lesson for the next season.
Let’s fast forward to today, where I finished week nine of writing school. Every day I’m a sponge, taking in as much knowledge as I can, hoping it stays there until I need it to come out in my writing. I have a lot to learn. And I enjoy learning it.
Though, not a week goes by without me feeling, at some point, like I’m stuck on the sailboat with either too much or not enough wind. Sometimes, I’m pointed in the opposite direction of everyone else. Thankfully, the people surrounding me are grace-filled and patient. Every day is a learning process, and not just in writing but spiritually as well.
This week I found out that I am happy to share stories about my life where Jesus healed my brokenness and brought beauty from ashes. Though, I’m much less ok with talking about the ongoing, still broken places. I know Jesus will get to them in due time…I’m not in a rush.
There are moments at school when I don’t think I can face the nagging condemnation of the enemy for one more second.
Here’s the good news. God’s Perfection covers my Imperfections. When I am not enough, He is!
I try to remember to ask God to give me his “Enough-ness” in place of the enemy’s frequent intrusions that insist “I am not enough.” He’s sneaky like that and plants his lies as “I statements” so that they slide in under the guise of my own thoughts. Blast him. But look out, because vengeance is the Lord’s!
On difficult days, I find comfort in the Psalms. The author speaks about hiding himself in God and letting him be a strong tower of safety. Leaning on God’s strength helps us to stand up again when we are beat up by imperfection’s sting.
Psalm 61:2-4 (NLT) says: “From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings!“
God’s Words Have Power, So Do Ours
Thursday morning I was journaling with the Lord at school and I wrote down the words he spoke to me. This is what he said:
My words have power.
Your words also have power, and they must agree with Mine.
Stand firm in my promises and the power of My Words over your life.
Do not let the enemy steal you over into his camp with the words you speak over yourself.
Remember that “I call into being, things that were not.” (Romans 4:17)
I’ve stored up treasures for you. Accept them by agreeing with my words over your life.
Have you said, “I can’t do it” this week? What about, “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t think I’m very good at that.” I know that I probably have. If you have, too, then join me in asking God for forgiveness in pitting our insecure words against his perfect words about us.
If God called us to it, then it’s time to rise again. We can trust His words over our lives. Let’s not allow the falling down and the imperfect tries to distract us from what he is saying about our capabilities. If God thinks we can, then let’s tell those other voices to shut up and sit down.
For me, school has been a daily, if not hourly, pursuit of getting back up, dusting myself off, and trying again. One day, when I stop seeing imperfection as failure, it might get a whole lot easier. (Accepting all prayers for that breakthrough! Thanks in advance.)
For those of us who struggle with perfection, until we are healed, let’s lean hard into God’s grace for us and his ability to protect us in the shadow of his wings. Then we can put on his strength and rise again.
If learning about resilience is up your alley, here’s a bit more for you.
I’ll leave you with this Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted (below) from Brene Brown’s website. While it doesn’t mention Jesus, just imagine that he is the one that is helping us write better life stories. I know he’s the only author I trust completely!
If you’d like to explore the topic of resilience and rising after falling, Brene has some great books and resources available from her website.
I’d love to get to know you and hear your story. Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me on facebook. Sign up here for my newsletter to get emails when I post!