Failure: Perhaps God’s Greatest Blessing in Disguise
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” -1 Corinthians 6:19-20
“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Heidi!”
Those were words I heard frequently from my beautiful mother, Andrea. She loved telling her friends that “anything Heidi does, she excels in.” I never felt quite the same, though, because anything less than perfection wasn’t worth celebrating. I never felt worthy of praise. I knew that I had been given certain gifts, although at the time, I’d never had it articulated to me where it was that they all came from.
I performed in talent shows, spelling bees, and other academic contests, but I could never win “the big prize.” In singing contests, I’d run off-stage when my song was over and cry because I’d cracked on a note that I was sure everyone else had heard. Of the 4 times I made it to the district spelling bee, I dropped out in either the 1st or 2nd round, because at that point in my life the words “gumption” and “dilapidated” were simply not a part of my vocabulary. B’s were 2nd place A’s, and all they did was plunge me from the “4.0 Club” to the much less appealing “Honor Roll.” I’ve missed out on trips to Las Vegas, $1000 grand prizes, the opportunity to sing the national anthem at the county fair, and the “prestige” that comes with being the best 4th, 6th, 7th, & 8th grade speller in Pierce County. I was good at making it to the final stage but never the one who could “close the deal.”
Fast forward more than 20 years later and I have a beautiful daughter of my own. And while I love the fact that she has my smile, my cheekbones, and my love of nature, at 5 I can already see that she has this tendency to be unreasonably hard on herself. She loves to draw and will oftentimes ask me for ideas of new things for her to create. When she can’t nail them on the first try, she gets upset and sometimes even throws what I think is a masterpiece straight into the garbage. She becomes easily frustrated with many things that don’t come naturally to her.
We’ve all heard it from our parents: “I hope you have one just like you someday!” I’m grateful she’s like me, but I definitely see my poor mother’s frustration with the illogical expectations I had for myself. It made it difficult for her to discipline me for things I deserved, because she knew I was always being so hard on myself with everything else.
Here’s where I am now:
I play in a country music band with my brother & sister-in-law. I’ve recognized that I have a musical gift and that Scripture tells me I’m supposed to glorify Him with it (1Peter 4:10). I sing because God has given me a love for it and not because I’m trying to be famous or earn praise from others. At this point I just want to make Jesus smile. I can’t tell you what a tremendous weight was lifted from me once I started doing it for HIS joy and HIS glory, rather than my own! And on a similar note, what I wouldn’t give these days to look back on the last 4 months of my life and feel like I’d earned a “B” for my conduct and performance! I still stumble and struggle with accepting my imperfections. At the end of the day, though, God has shown me in His omnipotent wisdom that none of this is about me, and I need to get past my own earthly hangups if I’m to achieve my life’s goal of making Him smile.
I’m trying to mimic God’s love for me by pressing hard on the fact to my daughter that, if she wants to be good at something, she’s going to have to practice hard and earn everything. After all, I prayed for patience every day and wound up with my son, who is an opportunity to practice patience, each and every day! Some things will come easy to her; some things will not. But it’s all for God’s glory, and when we do things with Him in mind and not ourselves, there is joy in it regardless of the earthly outcomes.
I also realized something in all of this which blessed me beyond anything I could ever expect. While God certainly equips each of us with gifts that He commands us to use for His glory, He also equips us all with weaknesses in order to keep us from getting too big for our britches. I believe these weaknesses are a blessing because, as we age in grace and wisdom, the end result is humility. I am forgetful, and sometimes I’m quick to speak and slow to listen. While I recognize that God commands us to watch what we say, sometimes I can feel Him get out of my way and allow me to speak words that I later regret. These stumbles are necessary for my spiritual growth and their impact is profound in my life. It’s during those times that I turn to Him the most. They are both a miraculous and practical reminder that I’m no better than anyone else. What an amazing God we serve!
Despite her inherited tendency to be unreasonably hard on herself, our daughter is off to an amazing start in her walk with Christ. She is already a prayer warrior and has recognized early on that one of her God-given gifts is to “make people feel special.” While I’ve failed at plenty of things in my life, she certainly isn’t one of them. I’m so thankful for God’s love and provision and for the opportunity to reflect on my own mistakes, in order to guide her away from making the same ones. And although my maternal instincts compel me to spare her from all failure and disappointment, I must resist because I’m a walking testimony to how failure can be God’s greatest blessing in disguise. I can only pray that God uses me to show her how to use those moments of adversity to grow and lean on Him for everything that this world was never designed to provide.