I really want to write about this thing we call failure but I’m actually afraid to  because of the very nature of the word itself.  I’m afraid I’ll fail  — fail to describe it adequately  … fail to do a good job in writing  …fail to somehow really encourage others the way I long to …fail to please somebody out there …fail to use the proper grammar or composition (apologies to all my English teachers who might happen to read this !!) …fail to really make a difference in someone’s life that will be impacting and life-giving !

I’m stepping out on a limb here anyway because I’m even more afraid of the alternative — doing nothing and playing it safe and missing an opportunity God might have for me to grow a bit.

It’s very interesting to me how failure can mark your life — for good …or bad.   There’s such a strong emotion attached to personal failure  that we often  brand it, shelf it, hide it, and lock it up never to be retrieved again …hopefully.  Ironically, it seems to come back out of the locked box only to resurface again and again in our lives .  What’s up with that??  Where’s the encouragement in that?  Why can’t I stuff that little sucker down for the last time and stand over it and do the  victory dance?  Or,  is it possible  life is made up of a series of failures and successes and somehow these two can’t exist without each other?

Back Door

And if failure is the back door to success, why don’t we just go through the back door all the time and lock the front door for good !?

Pondering , pondering  …

Here’s the deal,  I’ve failed so many times at so many things and so many  relationships you’d think I would have this thing figured out  by now and yet , here I am …still pondering and making sense out of it all .  According to some standards, I wouldn’t really call myself a “successful person” …I don’t have a job with an incredible salary (I don’t even have a job right now at all !), I haven’t started some non-profit organization that feeds millions of starving children (even though I wish I had !), I’m not on a regular diet and exercise program and I wear a size 12 instead of that size 8 I used to wear (failure, failure …),  I love to sing and play the piano but I’m not in a professional band or well-known group,  I haven’t written any books  and I don’t do public speaking —  except to my friends and family who have to listen because they love me and probably feel  obligated.  Thankfully, I’m not here to debate the perceived success or failure ratings of the above list as much as lessons learned from the journey.

Reasons for failure can range anywhere from a lack of  innate ability to accomplish something  to outright wrong choices in a given situation ( and everything that happens in between ).  This is the tough part  of trying to figure it all out.  For instance, I felt like I had  failed the whole natural birth plan when I ended up having a Cesarean-section delivery after being in labor for 24 hours and pushing for 3 hours …only to have the doctor come in and say it wasn’t going to work that way — failure to “do” what a woman was made to “do” ( in my mind). Another “neon-sign-moment-of-failure” that comes to my mind is  betraying the trust of a friend by sharing something personal  and confidential from their story with another friend — NOT  GOOD ! Okay …and there’s the failures I’ve had at jobs and school and spiritual  things that I’ll spare you the details … for now!

I don’t know everything but I do know this …without failure I’d never know God as intimately as I do right now and I’d never know His grace really does cover it all.  If I hadn’t failed “once or twice”  in my life I’d never have experienced the faithful, unconditional love of Jesus and  out of that love and grace,  be able to extend the same to others on the road with me.

Turns out, I really can’t do it on my own and I really do need God for everything  !  

Without failure I’d never know what paths were NOT for me to take , like that time I tried to switch my college major to business — bad call —  especially since I’m the one who has to ask how to calculate the tip for the waitress, etc  !! Yeah — some things should just be a no-brainer but you never know for sure unless you try, right !

Failure in relationships has helped to give some clear markers in my life that raise those necessary red flags when needed.  I may not heed every red-flag-warning as often as I’d like to admit but it has definitely provided some needed speed bumps along the way to say …”Slow down there, Joy !  Your conversation’s going way too fast down a road about that other person and it’s going to end in a wreck if you don’t take the first exit !”  Past failures have left some good baggage, in a sense, that help me pay attention as I walk along before tripping again.

Spiritually — oh, spiritually — there are many “failure sightings”  —   often wrong choices of my own making that I’m not real proud of; however,  they have helped me more clearly see the race marked out for me — the path God has chosen with my name on it.  Some of these do not necessarily go in the “sin category” but would more appropriately be labeled “lack of discernment”  for which God is so faithful to reveal and gently guide  me back on track.  That’s mercy!

Sometimes I believe God allows me to fail at something in life to help me see how much I desperately need Him every minute! Failure keeps me humble and guards me from being arrogant and prideful and opinionated (well, I still struggle with that opinion thing !).  If I never failed, how in the world would I be able to be sensitive to others who are struggling? I’d have all the answers and never question anything ! That’s actually a very scary thought !

Front Door

Honestly, in all the pondering over this issue, it makes me wonder if I would ever have learned anything without failing first !  Let’s   just say, I’m keeping my back door open these days so that when opportunity knocks on my front door, the lessons I’ve learned while walking through the back door will help me be a little more prepared to answer the front door with grace and compassion and faith and even a bit of humble confidence !

Joy Waters Martin

My kids tease me sometimes that my definition of a situation going well is often described as, "It was 'life-giving' " -- meaning, it may have had some conflicts or uneasy moments or stress but all in all , something about it breathed life into the situation and the people involved...something of the heart was moved in a good direction. I'm all about LIFE ... life with my husband, life with 4 adult children, their spouses and 8 grandchildren (to date, that is :), life in our home and life in a wild adventure we tend to label "ministry". In reality , all of these categories mesh together to make up the "organic me". Relational , redeeming and restoring are some of my favorite words and they give life to my soul as I walk it all out with Jesus Christ, the Giver of all life. Profile Photo by: Melody Martin

This Post Has 0 Comments

  1. Deb

    Oh Joy!!! You are SO “IN” my heart with this one!! Failure to act due to fear is one of my biggest “failures” as well…thank you for reminding me that God will continue to nudge me along through my weaknesses and self doubt!! xoxo

    1. Joy Martin

      Go for it, Deb ! The alternative is much worse 😉 Love you ! ~ Joy

Go for it! Leave a comment. :-)