When Failure is Success

success_failure_smlI am a success story, not a failure.  My dreams have always come true.  I’ve dared to dream them. I’ve been a woman of action, and all I can see ahead is potential.  That’s me.  The consummate cheerleader to myself, my loved ones, and my friends.  Ms. glass half-full.  What is particularly annoying about me is that I’m not the obliviously blind optimist.  No.

I happen to be the kind that looks for every weakness that could hinder success and instead of turning a blind eye to it or instead of seeing it as an insurmountable obstacle…I attack it.  In the past this aggression has landed in me in heaps of trouble because I tend to be so fixed on my goal that sometimes those obstacles have been people’s feelings and I trampled them.  But I’m learning.  Mostly.  I want to learn.  Did I just say that?  Someone said, “Don’t pray for patience.” because you WILL be tested.

Bottom line is that I don’t like failing at anything.  But since 2007 my life has truly been a lesson in failure.  My perfect family life crumbled.  My perfect job disappeared.  My perfect friends faded and it was like I was standing naked before the world with a bright light shining on all the things I did wrong.  It was excruciating.  It nearly destroyed me.  But it didn’t.  It taught me something about my own pride which I believe is the root of all sin.

I learned first that my will was not God’s will.  For the first time in my life I had to accept an outcome where the obstacles won.  I had to accept the word, No.

“No?   Don’t tell me no!”  my pride would scream.  And I fought.  Hard.  But No it was.  No to saving my marriage.  No to the job.  No to my dreams.  I had led a charmed life up to that point.  I had gotten what I wanted and gotten my way through most of it.

But I had this keen sense through much of my life that I was like the kid in the classroom who kept flying under the radar of the teacher and getting away with lots of things I should have been called on.  And I had this fear that one day the attention of the teacher would focus on me.  I was right.

Getting my way all the time was easy and fun and on the surface desirable, but it wasn’t good for me.  It isn’t good to go through life not having to accept some failures.  It gives you the wrong sense of your own value.  It gives you a puffed up spirit.  It stops you from identifying and empathizing with the people around you.  It makes you less likable. It makes you less godly.

I wanted a teachable spirit…so I learned to say, “Not my will but Yours be done.”

I thought I had learned my lesson and committed myself to follow God’s path for me instead of my own and to hold loosely the things in which he entrusted to me.  But a different kind of failure came along to teach me a different kind of lesson.

This time I had trusted the wrong person.  It wasn’t that there were obstacles I couldn’t get passed this time.  It wasn’t the error of my will.   It was that I made a very bad judgement call.  I prided myself on my ability to be discerning in the past.  If there was one thing I was good at, it was knowing what was decent and true.  But this time I was just plain wrong.

I had to accept that I could be wrong about something.  And that was really hard.  I was honestly embarrassed when my relationship with Slimeball fell apart.  Embarrassed at how sure I was that it wouldn’t.  Embarrassed that I got so caught up in the dream that I missed warning signs.  I am smart, I am intuitive, I am usually right about these things.  But this time I wasn’t just wrong.  I was duped, which on top of being wrong made me feel stupid.

I wanted a teachable spirit…so I learned to say, “Not in my knowledge but in Your wisdom.”

For some reason every time God puts me through the wringer I lose ten pounds.  Maybe it’s his little gift to me for all the pain and suffering that goes along with abdicating my will to His and admitting that maybe I don’t know everything under the sun either.  Those lessons were tough but being the optimist that I am, I dust myself off and pick myself up and try to apply what I’ve learned.

This time I thought to myself.  If what you’ve always done and chosen was wrong for you in the end, then try something different.  Instead of picking what was good for you, chose what fits instead.  So that is what I did.  I chose someone who fit my personality, my temperament, my sense of humor, my intellect.  I chose someone who just felt right in every way I could manage to look at it.  And over the past almost year now a very strange new lesson in pride has occurred.

I have accepted that I am not always going to get what I want.  I have accepted that I will not always be right.  And in this new relationship with Harry I have begun to experience for the first time in my life the realization that it’s not all about me.  I’m learning humility truly for the first time.  And what is so interesting in this particular lesson is that Harry would normally be the type of guy to do exactly what the others have done.  He is exactly the type to try to make my dreams come true.  He would bend over backwards to make me happy.  I know this.  But because of his business, because of things he is learning about himself, we are in this situation where he is having to tell me that I’m not the priority in his life every minute of every day.  Sometimes its little things, sometimes it is big things.  But clearly, other things take precedent on a regular basis.

I will be honest with you.  It doesn’t feel good.  Part of me likes being worshiped.  Part of me likes being an idol.  But I know in my heart that it’s not healthy.  God is still the teacher and His eyes are still fixed on me.  I believe He is determined to teach me this lesson.

I want a teachable spirit…so I am learning to say, “Allow me to decrease as You increase.”  Submission.  This is the hardest lesson of all.  It doesn’t hurt the worst.  But it is a fight against the self.  “What about me?” I ask.  The answer, “You aren’t the most important consideration at the moment…chill.”  WOW.  Wow.  w-o-w.

I want to matter.  I know that sometimes I just don’t.  When I honestly feel need for companionship, communication, love…Harry is sometimes just not available.  If he could he would.  But when he can’t, I wrestle with myself and not getting my needs met.  I wrestle with my attitude and my reaction.  I wrestle with how I choose to cope.  And I’m learning that temporary satisfaction and gain should never win over long-term good.  I’m learning how to control myself.

A few years back I was sitting in a small room with about 10 other women and we were doing a Bible study on the gifts of the spirit.  Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”  And the leader asked each of us which one was our strength and which one was our weak point.  And I sat there looking at all these women thinking…”I suck at all of them.”

God has taught me the most in the last 6 years about love and what it really means to love someone with an unselfish spirit.  He’s broken down the walls that my pride built up around me and exposed me to hard truths.  My will, my knowledge, my sense of self have suffered a direct assault.  But the result has been something miraculous.  I’m seeing in me this aptitude toward joy and peace and patience.  I’m watching myself be faithful and gentle and kind.  I have a desire to be good.  And I’m really working on self-control.

I’m a different person now.  God is chipping away slowing but surely sanctifying my life and it is amazing to watch.  Brutal at times and something I would not have signed up for knowingly.  But when you think about it…I did.  When I asked God to be real in my life I signed up for this transformation.  The initial act of submission and humility was key.

And woven into these lessons is the truth that seems the most ridiculous of all.  Protection of self leads to destruction.  It goes against human nature but I have found it to be utterly true.

Matthew 16:24-26a
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?

Mark 9:34-35
But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

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