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A Few Fails Do Not Make You a Failure

Recently I submitted a column about my adventure in babysitting. Due to the spread of the virus, Raegan’s daycare class was cancelled for several days. I volunteered to keep her on one of those days, and did I ever get a run for my money! You might recall that I left the column with an open question: Will I volunteer to do that again? Well, the answer is yes I did—and the outcome of that day was hardly any better than the other one! Without going into detail about the entire day, allow me to share just one example of what it is like when Papa volunteers to watch Raegan.

As the day progressed along, I went into the bathroom and found a horse standing in front of the sink! That was quite an unexpected visitor. Thankfully it was only a wooden rocking horse, but it had no more business being in there than a real horse does. And I will not even venture to speculate why it was there in the first place! If I took to heart my inadequacies at babysitting my grandchild, it would be pretty easy to label myself as a failure at that “simple” task.

Even when we try our best to keep moving ahead in the things we hope to achieve, there are times when we experience setbacks that we often perceive as failures. It is then that we must not give in to the temptation to become discouraged and abandon our quest for victory.

I entered into Bible college as a nontraditional student. Gale and I had been married for eleven years and we had two children. Those who have endured such a journey understand some of the difficulties and challenges that come along with it. I will not deny that I wanted to quit more than once, but with my wife’s encouragement to stay the course, I made it through those four brutal years.

When I was about half-way through, I was required to pass a test given by the state of Florida in order to continue to receive much needed state financial aid. After taking the long and laborious test, I found that I passed every area except one; I was one point short of passing math. I do not accept failure well, so I was understandably upset with my performance. That left me with a choice: I could give up because of that one bump in the road to graduation, or I could retake the failed portion of the test and hopefully excel in the second attempt.

Those times in life that we perceive as failures can, if we will allow them, become rich learning events that will ultimately make us stronger and better. John C. Maxwell, in his book Failing Forward, writes, “The terrible truth is that all roads to achievement lead through the land of failure.” Maxwell then offers this bit of guidance which I believe applies to both our spiritual growth and our daily accomplishments: “Get a new definition of failure. Regard it as the price you pay for progress. If you can do that, you will put yourself in a much better position to fail forward.”

James 1:12 assures us that “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (New International Version). The trials of life that appear as useless failures, in reality often prove to become indispensible preparation time for the future. Sometimes we get bruised, but that does not mean we are broken. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “The things which hurt, instruct.”

What happened with the test that I failed? I prepared myself, retook it and received a nearly perfect score the second time around. I can assure you from more than one personal experience that refusing to accept failure as final pays huge dividends.