Throughout my life, I’ve wondered if failing at something meant that I shouldn’t be doing it.
I failed my first time at my driver’s test. The second time I passed without any issues.
I received a third place on my piano solo during my senior year of high school. Each year until that point, I had received a first place. This particular year, I was performing Clair de Lune. Every day, I would practice at least an hour or so on the piece. Months of dedicated rehearsal felt wasted.
I failed the first time I applied to seminary. I doubted God’s call in my life. It took me years to find the courage to reapply once again. When I reapplied, I found the seminary to which God had called me.
I did not pass my second-year seminary oral examination during the first try. I completely froze during the exam. Oh how devastated I was! I used the experience to become stronger in my oral delivery skills and think quicker on my feet. The failure forced me into a time of reflection, challenging me on how dedicated I was to the call from God. From that failure, I was called by God to walk with others who had experienced similar failures.
During each of those failures, I wondered if I should stop trying. Maybe God was calling me in a different direction, and I was the one who was wrong in my perceptions. There was great praying and reflecting after each incident. Should I continue in the process? We often think that failure is a mandate that we cease our efforts.
In my failures, there was also great lamenting and grieving. My emotions swung high and low. I found moments of hope and promise then moments of dead ends and finished desires. When our dream fails, even temporarily, we forget that a piece of us dies with that failure. Our journey through life includes the grieving process – a slice of life we hope to avoid. At some point, we must acknowledge the sidestepping grief just delays pain as all of us will have our days of heartaches.
I don’t think God causes us to fail. And I don’t think our self-worth is always the cause of the failure, either. Many factors often determine whether failure happens – from the judge’s perspective, to where God may be calling us, to our shortcomings.
Each day we succeed at a variety of tasks, and each day we fall short of our expectations. In our careers, we perform some tasks easily and achieving great results, and other tasks do not produce the tasks we expect.
I still find little failures in my life. Should I continue to write when something is rejected or my last product was mediocre? Should I try a project at church when it didn’t work spectacularly the first time?
And then I remind myself success is not how others adore my talents but my faithfulness to God’s call. I’m working for God’s kingdom not my glory. If I am called to write, and I write, then I am successful because I have completed what I’ve been asked to do. If I live in a mindset of fear and despair that causes me to cease my efforts, then my talents have been buried, and there’s no chance they will multiply.