Success or Failure

The most important rite of passage for someone growing up in a small rural community in Canada was to get a driver’s license. As a teenager, it was an essential need for having a social life. The day I turned sixteen I was able to get a beginners’ permit. A week later I started a driver’s education course and a couple of months later went for the driver’s test. I was so excited because I would finally get to drive by myself and then I would have a whole new level of freedom.

The big day arrived. I was nervous but ready. Completing all the necessary checks, I put on my seat belt, signaled and pulled into traffic. Everything went perfectly for the first ten minutes of the test and then disaster hit. I drove right through a stop sign. Never even saw it. That’s an automatic failure. And just like that, my life was over. They could go ahead and write my obituary.

I was crushed and it was too painful and embarrassing to tell my friends. For several days I was depressed and discouraged. I just knew my entire life would be one big disaster and this failure would haunt me forever. I was convinced I would never get into university, find a job, or get married, all because I didn’t have a driver’s license. But I was wrong. A few weeks later I took the test again and passed. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been driving for over 40 years. What was the big deal? It all seems silly now, but it was very real at the time.

Our failures can often seem permanent and life-defining. The world tells us that ‘Failure is not an option.’ But failure is a part of the reality of life and something we all must come to grips with. Winning and losing, victory and defeat, success and failure – all these concepts are far less clear than we usually imagine. What looks like success today may be setting us up for failure tomorrow. What looks like a failure today may be what turns us around and leads to success tomorrow. Our perceived failures are seldom as final as we make them out to be. We can’t avoid failure and we can’t afford to shut down when it happens. We have to learn from it in order to keep going and growing.

Think about all the Bible stories we know about individuals who really messed up. Didn’t God confirm his love and continue to work with them? Those stories are included in Scripture for our benefit. Through those stories, we learn that God is always working with us and for us. The Apostle Paul said: “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippines 3:13-14)

Failure is a reality in this life, but it doesn’t define who we are, and it certainly doesn’t change the way God thinks about us. In the end, our ‘success’ in life will be defined in terms of our walk with God. Let’s put the negative behind us and press on to what is important.