Failure is Inevitable but Not Fatal
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”—Romans 3:23 (NIV).
Fearing failure, I waited almost a year after becoming eligible before I took my driver’s test. I was getting ready to enter college when I took a leap of faith. Passing the written part didn’t bother me. It was the fear of failing the parallel parking portion of the test that held me back.
Living in a rural community, we lacked parallel parking spaces. The examiner would use two vehicles parked across the street from an auto repair shop to conduct the test. On the day of my exam, there was only one vehicle on this side street. The examiner knew I was fearful of failing. I guess he felt sorry for me because he allowed me to pretend there were two cars parked there, instead of one. He passed me.
Fearing and experiencing failure are an inevitable part of life we can’t escape. If we were to examine our life, we might find the source of our fears of failing. Looking back, I think part of my fears of failing are linked to my mother. Raised by strict parents, my mother was a perfectionist. Striving for perfection only sets us up for failure. We become obsessed with the idea that we’re never good enough. I did and it led to my becoming a people-pleaser.
The Need to Please
Until I came to know Christ as my Savior and Lord, my fear of not living up to other’s expectations dominated my life. I never blamed my mother. She learned it from her mother. I recall a time when my widowed grandmother came for a visit. I’d just finished a pie baking class at school and prepared a key lime pie while she stayed with us. Before she returned home, my grandmother asked for the recipe. I copied the recipe onto a card for her. Unintentionally, I left a step off the card.
A week later, my grandmother called. Known for her culinary skills, my grandmother was frantic. Thinking she’d failed at creating a new recipe, she was almost in tears. She said, “Ruby, I’ve stirred and stirred the pie filling, but it won’t turn green.”
After going over the steps with her, my mother realized I’d left off one step—adding a teaspoon of green food coloring to the mixture. It wasn’t my grandmother’s fault but my mistake. We all got a laugh out of my grandmother’s reaction.
How We Respond When We Fail
In Romans 3:23, Paul writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
When we sin, we fall short of what God has commanded. It’s how we respond to our failings that really matters. If we repent, and ask for forgiveness, God’s abounding grace will wipe away our transgressions. We don’t have to live in fear of God’s wrath. Lamentations 3:22 reminds us that “because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” I find that reassuring. Don’t you?
Former teaching pastor and author, Francis Chan once said, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”
What Really Matters in Life
As humans, we often put emphasis on things that really don’t matter from an eternal perspective. Climbing the corporate ladder, purchasing large houses, driving expensive vehicles, accumulating material possessions—none of these bring us joy. They don’t fill the God-shaped hole inside of us.
The last stanza in a poem by Michael Josephson reads, “What will matter is not your memories but the memories of those who loved you. What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom, and for what. Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident. It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice. Choose to live a life that matters.”
Christian writer and theologian, Major Ian Thomas, once said, “Christ did not die simply that you might be saved from a bad conscience, or even to remove the stain of past failure, but to ‘clear the decks’ for divine action.” Learn from your mistakes. Don’t wallow in them. Let their lessons lead you closer to Him.
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