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…