The first memory I have of failure comes rushing back to me at the tender age of 5. Let me preface this story by explaining my personality as a child...two words: Imaginatively Stubborn. My long-suffering parents and sisters will attest to that heartily!
Now I'm sure I "failed" before this early memory...what child doesn't fall down repeatedly trying to learn how to walk? However, this was a big, slightly epic "FAIL" that included some fairly serious physical ramifications.
I love Peter Pan...I have loved that story since the first time I heard it (right around 4-5 years old) and wholeheartedly embraced the characters in that story as a child. Unfortunately at age 5, my line between fantasy and reality was nonexistent. We had just moved to our new house in Bowie, MD - a suburb of Washington DC and we had a big backyard, lots of trees, a sandbox and a swingset. Basically mecca for a kindergartener! One of our huge maple trees had branches that hung over our swingset and provided the perfect "handle" for a 5-year-old eager to test out just how accurate the story of Peter Pan really is.
You can see where this is going, can't you?
I climbed up the swingset, balanced on the top of it, clutching the tree branches, squinched my eyes shut, screamed "Christmas!"(my chosen happy thought) and flung myself out into the air spread-eagle style ready to take flight!
My ribs still sting a little when I remember that teeth-shattering impact with the unforgiving ground. Other than that I don't remember that much...other than my older sister shrieking for our parents...then I think I blacked out.
First failure...pretty painful one at that! So why am I sharing my epic fail with you? This week's message at our church (Oakridge Baptist Church) focused on how to overcome failure.
If you haven't kept up with this blog in the past few weeks, I'll fill you in. Our pastor has been preaching an incredible series titled "Overcome". The past three weeks have included powerful messages on overcoming depression, defeat and doubt. This week's message was another incredible segment focused around the story of Peter.
One of the best things our pastor mentioned was the fact that in this success-crazed, fast-paced society of ours, we must remember...EVERYONE FAILS. That's not something to brush off lightly, it is a Biblically-based concept.
Ecclesiastes 7:20 - No one in this world always does right.
James 3:2a - We all stumble in many ways.
It is not a question of IF you will fail, it is a question of WHEN...and that's not always a terrible thing! Failure can be incredibly fruitful, God causes everything to work together for our growth and good...often the fear of failure is so much more crippling than actual failure!
Many of you who know me well also know that I was in an incredibly difficult job situation for more than 3 years out in Indiana. The job itself was great, I loved what I was doing...but the work environment itself was toxic to say the least. I worked for a director who refused to accept that humans make mistakes. Our staff was so terrified to actually go to her and tell her that we made a mistake (i.e. didn't order enough paper originally for a printing project and needed more) that we would all scramble around trying to hide it from her.
It was horrible! Once I left that job and moved out to MD getting a job in an atmosphere that was the polar opposite of that job I realized just how awful that employment atmosphere was...and along with that, not every job is like that!
I don't want you to think I advocate using "It's ok to fail" as an excuse not to do your best work. That is not Biblical and wasn't the focus of this week's message at all. Our pastor hit hard on the ways God can use our failure. He can educate, motivate and cultivate us all through those bumps in the road, those miscalculations and mistakes.
Romans 5:3-4 - We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us - they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady.
The first step toward allowing God to really work in our failures is to ask for and receive His forgiveness for failing in the first place. Failure is never the end, is never final unless we allow it to be. God will never walk away from us...EVER. That is a promise we can hold dear.
Ok, I'll end this post on a chuckle-worthy note because as I've been typing, I've been remembering one other slightly epic fail...
As a kid and all the way through high school, school always came pretty easy to me (with the exception of advanced math!). College went that way too...until I took Drawing 1.
I. Cannot. Draw.
Seriously...my two-year-old Sunday school class out performs me in that way! However, if I wanted to graduate with a graphic design degree from my chosen college I was forced to take traditional art classes.
Which by the way is completely insane!
So I started taking the class and about halfway through my professor asked to meet with me...he was nice enough but basically said something to the effect of, "Em, it's killing me because you are working so hard at this, but you have no artistic ability and I honestly can't teach you enough to get you to pass this class."
Needless to say I failed my first class...and last class...at least so far! Drawing continues to be the bane of my existence. I can't even draw a straight line with the help of a ruler! However, without that failure, I never would have changed my major to Journalism and English - discovering my true strength and passion in the written word.
God has a funky way of directing us...even through our failure!