Frozen bubbles

Melinda asked a question in her blog post this morning: if you couldn’t fail, and knew you couldn’t fail, what things would you do? What would you do with your life?

On the face of it, this sounds like such a simple question. Who wants to fail? Wouldn’t this open all kinds of horizons? But give it another few minutes thought; it’s not simple at all.

First I thought of it as a retrospective thing: what would I have done differently? Well, sure, we all have things in our pasts we wish we had handled differently, regrets, etc., but if I had done things differently, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. Thinking about not having my husband, my children, my friends, I wouldn’t change anything. Even if that meant all kinds of terribly sad things wouldn’t have happened, those sad things contributed to who I am right now. For instance, I might not have suffered the pain of losing four babies, but then I wouldn’t have created Lost Innocents and helped countless sorrowing people. The list goes on. I guess I’ll take my current life and my own personal history, warts and all.

So if the past is out, what about the future? What about right now? I puzzled over this off and on for a good hour (yes, I was doing other things, not just staring into space). I kept coming up with things I wished I could do and don’t, but in each case it wasn’t a question of failure but of a lack of resources, time being the most precious one. For instance, I’ve always wanted to know how to fly. I’m not worried that I can’t do that successfully, I just know there’s no practical way to accomplish that right now. On a much smaller scale, I wish I could knit cables. I honestly think I could, but there doesn’t ever seem to be time to try something new; my crafting is almost all for the shop.

I dug a little deeper, opening doors that have gotten rather creaky with disuse. I want to publish some things I’ve written. I’ve honestly tried, but they haven’t been a good fit for any publisher, and doors have slammed shut when even smaller, more independent publishers have expressed interest. Sure, there’s self publishing, but that would mean I’d be doing all of the illustrating on my own and there’s just not enough TIME. I gave the whole kit and kaboodle to God and said, “here, it’s yours. If you want it published, then you’re going to have to make it happen because I’m out of ideas, out of time, and out of steam.” So far, it appears God is happy to wait, so I too wait.

Thinking about publishing brought up some uncomfortable feelings though. Feelings of shame and inadequacy, of failure and fear. Because what are we really doing if we take away the possibility of failure? We’re taking away the fear of failure. Writing was one thing (I felt like I was just reading the stories as I wrote them, that they didn’t really come from me) but putting them out there for criticism and rejection was quite another. I shrink from rejection as I suspect most of us do.

God has instructed us not to live in fear. I do try to remember this, and even though I’m a champion worrier (Olympic level) I have actually gotten much better over the years at letting God handle it. “If God wants it to happen, then it will, and if He doesn’t, then it won’t, and it’s because he has something different in mind.” When things involve the possibility of personal rejection, however, I’m back at the bottom of the ladder, wringing my hands and running away.

Of course, we don’t live in a world in which failure is not possible. It’s just one of those interesting philosophical questions because God permits us to fail, even when we’re trying really hard to get it right. If we never failed we’d be thinking we were perfect beings and wouldn’t give the glory to God at all. What a dreadful thought!

Later it occurred to me that while we have no power to expel the possibility of failure from our lives, we do have one really important power: we can try to live fearlessly. We can trust in God for everything, humbly accepting whatever comes our way, not worrying that the results of our labors might be failures, or even have the appearance of failure.

After all failure can lead to great things. How many extraordinary scientific discoveries came about because someone’s intended project failed? Summer Kinnard wrote earlier today, This is one of those days when failure is so helpful that it feels like a success.” I think I learn more from failure than success, as much as I hate to admit it.

Look at it this way: is it failure for a bubble to pop? Isn’t that just what bubbles do? They pop, sometimes in your face, and sometimes after soaring to 40 feet, but they all ultimately pop. The one seeming exception to this is when bubbles freeze. If you blow bubbles when the air temperature is below freezing then sometimes they freeze before they pop. So there is is, a frozen bubble. Frozen bubbles don’t pop right away, granted, but frozen bubbles also never soar…

15 thoughts on “Frozen bubbles

  1. This post made me tearful for some reason. Maybe because it resonates so much, or maybe because I could really sense your heart behind the words. I relate to the shame inadequacy debate (plus the time factor) on writing…There are so many things I would like to do but the difficulty is in isolating the few that I am called to work on. I know you would have a supportive community should you choose to publish something. This is really a beautiful post and I love the frozen bubble photos and analogy. Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I love that you wrote a whole post about the prompt Melinda gave! I read your conversation with Melinda on her blog, and this whole question to me is actually quite scary because I am at a point in my life (starting my last semester of undergraduate) where people tell me I can do anything. My spiritual father often reminds me that I don’t want to do what I want to do but what God wants me to do, and honestly there is also a great deal of fear going into that. It requires the outright admittance that I do not know, that I must surrender control, and let Him take care of things. I’m terrible at living in the ambiguity. I am so glad I can read your writing (and the writing of others) and have examples to show me that no matter what (and even if terrible things happen), God will be there and that’s what matters the most.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t do well with ambiguity either. When I get paralyzed over a decision I generally have to say, “God, make it obvious. If this is not what I’m supposed to do, then put up some barriers, close some doors.” He always has.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m reading a book by Brene Brown and she emphasizes all successful people have had failures initially, but they keep going! I really needed to read that. Also, I just love the frozen bubbles!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am grateful for this reflection, especially your thought about how we have the power to try to live fearlessly. It reminds me of the verse in 1 Peter about being Sarah’s daughters, “if you do what is good and do not fear what is frightening.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a fascinating topic to me, particularly the part about “letting go and letting God.” Personally I struggle to know when God is asking me to wait (or just saying no) as opposed to asking me to just work harder.

    Liked by 1 person

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