Category Archives: Failure Happens: What If?

Step Back.

Burnt Turkey

   The fried turkey is burning. But – so what? No one’s going to starve. To my knowledge, a bologna sandwich never killed anyone. And so what if the dishes sit in the sink till the sun rises? (Or sets?) Unless you’re expecting a Department of Health inspector to stop by and report to your mother-in-law, what difference does it make?  So what if the lawn doesn’t get mowed every Saturday at noon? The Neighborhood Association can’t evict you for at least a week.

   Step back. Breathe.

   Sometimes we just have to take a break and get a grasp on the big pic before we get so caught up in the silly annoyances of life that we forget what really matters and what doesn’t.

   Kids have clothes on. Matters. The clothes are designer brand. Doesn’t matter.

   You make scrambled eggs for dinner. Doesn’t matter. You let the kids cook.  Kinda doesn’t matter. You never cook. Matters.

   You’re running behind and late to work. Doesn’t really matter. Late three times this week. Really does matter.

   Computer’s down. Doesn’t matter. You have to hand-write a business plan. Now it matters.

   Stuffy nose. Doesn’t matter. Headache. Probably doesn’t matter. Lyme disease. Matters.

   Bad hair day. Would matter if anyone cared. Dog pooped on the carpet. Doesn’t matter: “Dog 4 sale. Carpet 4 sale.”

   Stupid things – all. Even the things that we think “matter” are often just blips on the radar; here and gone. When we’re faced with a flat tire, a snarky boss, or even a moment (or two) of “intense fellowship” with our spouse or child or parent, we need to step back and reflect on a couple of things:

  1. We even have a tire – and it probably comes attached to three other tires and a car.
  2. We have a boss (even if she is the reincarnation of Cinderella’s step-mom) and a boss usually means a job.
  3. We have a spouse or a child or a parent to argue with occasionally.

What’s life without a little hot sauce?

   Step back.

   So what if we miss the party? No one’s going to die. As I’ve been known to remind myself in the occasional crisis, no one’s going to go hungry or end up sleeping on a park bench, either. Really.

   Certainly there are serious circumstances in life sometimes, and they do require serious attention. They matter.

   But let’s save our panic attacks for those – not the small fender dent or the lack of pizza funds or even the not-nice comment from the Mean Girls or the water-cooler crowd.  Let’s step back and take a look at the big screen: We’re not living in some poor, third-world country where we have to walk three miles a day in mirage-degree heat just to get one bucket of dirty water to drink, wash in, and water plants with. That’s if we have plants.

   We’re not living in a country where children die from strep throat or mosquito bites or a flu bug because meds don’t exist.

   We’re not living in a country where education is a myth or where, at best, it has to be bought and paid for.

   We’re not living in a war-shredded country where explosions and blood and death are as common there as video games are here, where children are dying from real bullets, not shooting imaginary ones on a flat-screen.

   We’re not living in a dictatorial country where “vote” is an evil word and where a brutal regime can reign for decades. If we end up with a bad president, we’ll get a new one. In Cuba they won’t.

   Let’s step back.

   So the washer died and we have to go to the mat to get clean clothes. At least we have clothes. And they’re clean.

   So we broke a toe or a window or a fingernail. They can all be fixed.

   So half the news is fake. We can turn it off.

   Let’s step back and look at the big picture: What will any of it matter in a day? a week? a year?

   In the end?

  

 

Life’s Little “Pop Quizzes”

epic-fail

Yesterday I had “a day”. And we all know what that means: a day full of annoyances, conflict, disappointment, headaches and things breaking down – and mental breakdowns are not unheard of. It’s a day where all kinds of fun things happen. For example, you’re running late – and the snail-on-wheels in front of you doesn’t quite seem to grasp that. And of course something has to break – and it has to be the coffeemaker. Or (my personal favorite) your kids decide your life isn’t exciting enough and needs a little drama – and they’re happy to fix that for you. They’re so helpful that way. Or you forget your lunch so you roll through the drive-through only to discover you don’t have your wallet. But no worries – you know where it is. It’s sitting on the kitchen counter – right next to your lunch and the broken coffee maker. And to top it all off, you get to work (late) and pull up the document you’d worked on for a week and saved – or thought you saved …

All you can do at that point is to look up at the sky and inquire, “Is there a point here??”

Well, yes, actually there is. It’s one of life’s little “pop quizzes”, the let’s-see-how-much-you’ve-learned-character test that God loves to spring on us from time to time. And while I’d much prefer the paper and pencil version of that particular test (because I know all the right answers to that test), God seems to prefer the more “show, don’t tell” type of test. That’s the test that seems to go something like this:

Did you flash a friendly smile at the guy in the snail-mobile or – uhm, not?

Did you sit your kid down and patiently explain why it’s rude to use “that” language – or did you ground them until they’re 45? Not that there’s anything wrong with a good, long grounding – as long as you smile sweetly and the neighbors down the street don’t hear you do it.

Did you thank the nice lady at the drive through and politely explain that the wallet is on the counter next to the lunch and the broken coffee maker? And did you flash a friendly peace sign at the guy behind you in line who’s honking his horn like a maniac on steroids? Or did you yell at the nice lady that they took too long with your order so you don’t want it now and then roar off, squealing your tires?

For me, as a teacher, my tests often involve high school students who never got the memo that there are just certain things guaranteed to spoil your classroom experience. Like pitching a full-fledged fit when the teacher has the gall to tell you that naptime is over and to get your head up off the desk or to turn around and stop talking to your neighbor or to stop throwing pencils or to stop texting in class – and forget telling me it’s your mother. True story. Yesterday. All in one 45-minute period. Did I pass the test? Probably not. Which is why later I was near tears when, out of the blue, my sister called.

“What’s wrong??”

“Nothing.”

“You’re lying.”

“Okay.”

“What happened?”

So I told her what happened. What happened was I failed the test. I sort of let the little cherubs know I was not happy. Loudly. And I knew that it didn’t matter what they had done; I’d failed. Know what my sister said?

“‘To whom much is given, much is required.’”

Great. I would’ve preferred, “This too shall pass.”

The thing about these little pop quizzes is that God tailor-makes them all. For some it’s the patience test;  for some it’s the “love the least of these” test; for some it’s the giving-money test; for some it’s the scrub-the-toilet-servant test; for some it’s the gossip test – et cetera. And guess what else? God doesn’t do social promotions. It doesn’t matter to God how long it takes us to pass our ICE’s (Individualized Character Tests) – God has all eternity.

So – Rule #1 if you fail the test: admit it. We all have to do that. Or we get to take the truthfulness test again. And once we pass that test and admit what we’ve done, then we get to start all over with the original character test that we wouldn’t admit we’d failed. Ever hear of “life-long learning”? Well, now you have.

Point?

Don’t get discouraged when you get a failing grade on your pop character quiz. It means God’s working.

Honestly? Yesterday, that was the one thing that made me feel better – the idea that the difficult circumstances were for a purpose. I know I learned something – for me it wasn’t about what I said because it wasn’t unreasonable. The point is how I said it. I learned that there’s a wrong way to say the right thing.  

Will I have to take this little quiz again? I hope not – but, yes. Then I can move onto the next grade. More lessons, more quizzes. Do I like that? Not really. But then I consider the alternative: no more lessons – and no more transformation. And never again being entrusted with more. Of course, God is a gentleman; He won’t teach us anything without our permission. So what’s our answer?

If we want to be entrusted with the bigger things that lead to fulfilling our destinies, then there can only be one answer.

 

 

Myth #33: “Fear of Success”

No Fear 2Have you ever heard someone say that they just can’t do “it” (whatever “it” is) because they’re being held back by “fear of success”?

Let’s face it – fear of failure is a thing; fear of proving you can’t do something is a thing; even fear of becoming successful and then losing it is a thing. But “fear of success”? Can I just be perfectly blunt about that?  There ain’t no such puppy.

Who’s afraid of success, really? Think about it. If you’re truly afraid of succeeding, then what’s the point of even trying? You might succeed. And that would scare you.

No, the fact is that people might be afraid of a couple of things connected with success – but not success itself.

Thing #1: Some people are afraid to try that thing they’d really love to try because – what if they can’t? That would be the end of the fantasy that “I could if I really wanted to – I just don’t want to. But I could . . .” We’ve all had those fantasies. And so we don’t try that thing because we don’t want to prove to ourselves (and everybody else) that we really are not capable of doing it.  Entering that contest, starting that diet, trying out for that team . .

Actually, I see this type of thing with students all the time. “I can’t write,” “I can’t do math,” and – everybody’s favorite – “I can’t give that speech!” (meaning “if you make me, I won’t just fail, I’ll die”).  So because they believe they can’t, they simply won’t – and they’ll fight you not to have to try.

Is it okay to mention that trying won’t kill you?

Sure, you might be embarrassed – who hasn’t been? But what will kill you in the end is regret – regret that you never did try.

Thing #2: Some people are afraid of achieving success – and then losing it.

“What if I’m successful and then I’m not good enough? Or I can’t maintain it? Or . . .”

You start that business and it’s going well. Success! But then, well, not so well. Or you apply to that college and get accepted. Success! But then you fail some courses, or run out of money, or even flunk out entirely. Or you actually start a relationship with that cute girl or guy. Success! But then it crashes and burns . . .

That’s not fear of success, that’s fear of losing success. But it’s truly true what they say: “You win some and you lose some.” And sometimes you win some and then lose. It happens. Don’t let the fear of it hold you back.

Thing #3: Fear of imperfection. That’s right. What if you can’t do “it” perfectly the first time you try?? OMG!

Seriously, some people get stuck on this. Again – I have students who will try once (if they try at all) and if it doesn’t work perfectly, game over. Period.

I used to have this problem and sometimes still do. But I didn’t realize it for the longest time until I had a student who would pitch a royal fit, swearing and throwing things, if he couldn’t do something flawlessly the very first time he tried it. And in the middle of his rant, he would yell, “I’m so stupid, stupid, stupid!!!” 

That’s the day I realized why I got so upset when I couldn’t do something perfectly the first time: I felt really stupid; I felt as though there was something actually wrong with me.  I personalized my failure instead of simply chalking it up to “just not my thing; I guess I’ll have to work at this one.”

Frequently, I have students who hate to write because they find it hard and so they have this mistaken idea that if they were any good at it, it would be easy. So I get out my notebooks and show them how much writing and re­-writing I have to do before I get a story or an article right. It’s true. Writers write – and re-write. Musicians practice and then practice some more (except for Beethoven – he never practiced). Athletes work up to that 500lb weight or that four-minute mile or that 200th pull-up. No one ever starts out doing “it” perfectly. And that’s okay.

The bottom line is this: before you can achieve your dreams and fulfill your destiny, you have to face your fears. And before you can face those fears, you have to identify what they really are. If nothing else, remember this: your failures are not a reflection of who you are. They’re simply an indication of what you need to work harder at doing. That’s all. And if anyone ever tells you anything different, just tell them they need more work on their social skills.

The only real failure is never trying.

So DONE!

Man in DespairHave you ever been so desperate to hear from God or to have Him move on your behalf that, having tried everything else, you finally just pitch a fit.

Have you ever been angry at God?

Maybe you feel you’ve been tried beyond your limits: a person in your life who – for days, months, years – has tested your patience and love beyond bearing? A job which – while you’re grateful to have one – you dread going to each and every day? Or you need a job, any job? Perhaps you’ve been waiting a long time for the desire of your heart – a husband or wife? A dream you believe you’ve been called to? A child?

Maybe you’ve been praying for the salvation of a loved one for half a lifetime – and they seem to be getting further away from the Lord, not closer. Perhaps you’re desperate to be healed or to see a loved one healed – and pain is all you know in the meantime. Maybe you’re enduring a heartbreaking marriage – and despite all of your pleading and prayers, the dream just isn’t happening.

Maybe you have financial problems: bills you can’t pay or college or retirement you can’t afford? Or just when you begin to get on your feet, something else breaks down, wears out, needs repairs or someone gets sick? What if your heart’s been broken just one too many times and you just can’t bear one more minute of pain?

What then?

What if, in the midst of any or all of those trials, heartaches, persecutions, and crisises, you’ve said every prayer you can think of or you’ve put on the game face and willed yourself to worship one more time or you’ve fasted till you’re skin and bones or you’ve declared every promise in the Bible? What if you’ve tithed every penny you’ve ever earned and forgiven till you’re blue in the face and haven’t missed church in seven years? What if you’ve read the Bible through three times in a year, pray two hours a day (on your knees), and clean toilets every week at church.

What if all of that – and you still just can’t seem to get God’s attention.


     Have you ever been there?  So worn out from waiting, crying, pleading, dealing, declaring, and waiting some more that you finally decide God needs a little drama?


Sometimes, in the midst of desperate circumstances over a long period of time, when everything we know to do has failed to move God’s hand – we take circumstances into our own hands. Continue reading So DONE!