I sit here this evening cascaded by the faint flicker of my Pumpkin spice candle. Its flame licks the tip of the jar, feeding off of the oxygen coursing through its flame. As I watch it move from side to side I find myself pondering the deepest parts of the heart, my heart.
Have you ever failed?
It could be at anything: school, job, life, family, walking up stairs..etc…
Have you ever failed?
If you’re honest, and I hope you are, I’m going to guess that you answered yes and that there are a few examples floating around in your memory. Of course you’ve failed! Everyone fails at times. It’s within our nature. We all know that not a single one of us is perfect and has had to brush the dirt off from our scraped knees from time to time. I’ve failed so many times too. More times than I’d like to imagine or count.
So, why is it so difficult to accept that very truth?
I was presented with this thought today and it got me digging through my childhood and current circumstances. Many would say that I’m a “Grade A” personality, a “go-getter”, or an “initiator”. Leader is more like it, in my mind.
I was raised to be a leader. I was raised to be independent, organized, and put together. Failure was never an option for my boyish heart. I wanted my Dad to be proud of me. I wanted to hear my mom say “That’s my boy.” There were many times that those words did in fact enter into my ears but times of scolding scarred my motivation more than anything. Why?
I disappointed the ones I loved most.
They knew I could do and be better but I had failed them. I hated not being perfect. I hated not being able to grasp the simplest of ideas or techniques. I wanted to be master over everything so that I would never fall short. I absolutely had to look perfect, act perfect, and be perfect even though I knew it was worthless.
Growing up in the Church and as a Pastor’s kid didn’t help this at all. Whether anyone meant to or not, an expectation and vision for who I should look like and act like was cast on me. I was supposed to have it together, read my Bible, know all the verses, never do anything wrong. I was held up in a limelight that I never asked for.
This pressure weighed on me and I created this mentality of pursuit. I was to pursue this ideal and I shouldn’t rest until I attained it. I gave myself no leeway and I wouldn’t budge. This created a heart inside of me that wouldn’t forgive my own failures, let alone someone else’s.
No matter how many times I was grounded, scolded, or spanked, the punishment I gave to myself was far worse than any thing anyone else could have given.
“Jesus calls you to be better. Obviously you’re not good enough so you have to be better so He will love you. You have to be perfect so others will love you. You HAVE to be perfect so mom and dad won’t think you’re a failure.”
The older I got the more I would seek to master. I’ve held jobs within 10 different areas of expertise including the medical field, the judicial system, college admissions, retail, food service, church administration…The list goes on. I can speak, write, and act efficiently. I can play the piano, drums, guitar, and I taught myself how to sing. I know how to run a soundboard. I can create the most basic website. I can mow, plant, and maintain a beautiful garden. I tried playing basketball, golf, soccer, baseball, and football. I know how to put on a mask and pretend like everything’s ok. If there was something I could learn, odds were I tried learning it. Do you know what I was never good at, though?
Forgiving myself, forgiving others, and loving like Jesus wanted (wants) me to.
Do you know why?
I expected perfection out of myself. I felt that my parents wanted perfection out of me. All of those beliefs led me to insinuate that God expected perfection out of me too. Failure was never an option.
It couldn’t be.
We all know reality, though. Failure came and when it did, it hit like a ton of bricks. In fact, failure seemed to be constant, especially in my college years. I was at a loss. “I thought I was better than this? What will people think of me? Will mom and dad be proud? Will God hate me?”
Back and forth, back and forth. The exhausting war for freedom waged within my heart and mind but no relief came. I’ve poured time into gaining a better understanding of God’s perspective on me and I fully believe that He knows I’m not perfect and doesn’t expect me to be. He took my failures on His shoulders and erased them through dying on the cross for them. That’s incredibly comforting.
I also know that my parents never meant or intended to create these things in me. In fact, they didn’t create these thoughts in my head, I did. I know that they only wanted the best for me and they loved me with a love that not many know. I know that they are proud of me and they’ve told me so many times. I don’t resent them. I respect them and love them with all of my heart. When I realized these things it was almost as if a weight had been lifted from my weary shoulders.
Despite all of this I still feel the crushing weight of failure. It’s still not an option in my heart. I suppose some part of me is still hanging on to the idea that I could still disappoint God and the people that mean the most to me. I still feel that a single mistake can erase all of the love that they have, all of the respect that they have.
I know that none of that is true. I know that no matter what I do, God, my parents, and the people that love will never stop loving me. That is the hope that I cling to when I fall short. Unfortunately, the inner recesses of my mind still call out late at night and tell me I’ll never be good enough, that I need to try harder.
Being two days away from my graduation causes me to pause and wonder what I could have done differently. What if I hadn’t failed here? What if I could have just been smarter? Listened to my parents? Listened to God? Oh, how much pain I could have avoided.
Regardless, failure is just as much a part of me as victory is. There wouldn’t be any worth to life if we never knew the meaning of falling short but getting back up. I would never appreciate the grace of God in my life despite my shortcomings. I would never know what true love was if no one ever had a reason to abandon me.
So, after all of that, I guess failure isn’t that bad after all.
What do you think? Leave a comment down below or let us know on our facebook page!