Do you remember the first time you failed? Maybe you failed small and only felt the sting of embarrassment at your actions. Or, maybe you’ve failed in a colossal way and had the waves of shame try to drown you.
I think one unique way our generation struggles with failure is that we often don’t truly fail when we’re younger. From elementary school to college, we frequently received the participation trophies, multiple leadership positions, or have bounced from shiny internship to shiny internship. We’ve received few “No’s” or little push back. But all of a sudden upon graduation there is a stark difference. We’re expected to carry weight and responsibility that we haven’t been properly prepared to carry.
We don’t get a job before we graduate, or the next 6 months either. We flop work projects we’re given, or we completely lose our jobs. We’re not where the world always told us we could be, and Failure is our pesky friend that doesn’t know when they’ve overstayed their welcome. One of my biggest lessons of failure and rejection came in my first job out of college. Me, a fresh graduate who hadn’t had an ounce of true responsibility up until that point.
I had graduated from college in May, took a traveling camp job for the summer with absolutely NO idea of what the Lord would bring about come August. But I had some hopes for what would come after. Hopes and prayers for a tiny house that I could rent, a dream job of working in ministry to disciple women, and friends that would help me tackle the transition from college to “The Real World”. Not a tall order for the God of the universe, right? And low and behold, I received just that. House, job, and friends. Check, check, and check.
Fast-forward 4 months, numerous conversations about my work progress, and a mid-year evaluation, and I was handed the ultimate rejection. I was told that I would not be offered a position to come back when my contract ended. The shock, devastation, and hurt was palpable as I sat across from two of my supervisors crying. I had already decided this job might not be the best fit for me, yet the reality of others seeing that as well bruised my pride. They were sweet in saying I had improved over the last 4 months, but all I heard was that I had not improved enough. That I had failed. Now I was being handed a shining plate of rejection that I wanted to toss into the trash.
It makes me think about Moses leading the Israelites from Egypt. Moses, with help, had done the hard work of getting Pharaoh to let his people go. They passed through the Red Sea and made their way to Mount Sinai. Now it’s time for Moses to receive The Ten Commandments. He leaves Aaron in charge and up he goes. While he’s up on the mountain, the people see Moses delaying to come back down. Suddenly, they want Aaron to make a god for them since they don’t know what happened to Moses!
Maybe it had been some time since Aaron had responsibility over the Israelites, but he quickly caved into the people’s request for a god they could see. “Aaron replied to them, ‘Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughtersand bring them to me.’ …. He took the gold from them, fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made it into an image of a calf. Then they said, ‘Israel, these are your gods, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’” (Exodus 32: 2-4).
God sees this and immediately instructs Moses to go down from the mountain. The people have acted corruptly and a large part of that is Aaron’s doing. Moses is enraged asking Aaron, “What did these people do to you that you have led them to such a grave sin?” (Exodus 32:21). The people were out of control because the responsibility before Aaron to shepherd the people in Moses absence was too great. And Aaron was majorly to blame. At the end of this story, Moses asks for God to forgive the people of their sins. He does, but a plague is inflicted on them for what they did with the calf.
Aaron failed the people and the people failed their faithful God who had provided for them so far. But Moses spoke on their behalf to help them return to the favor of the Lord. They failed but it wasn’t the end. They had more story to write and you do too. Don’t let failure be the end of your story. Don’t let uncertainty of how to handle responsibility cause you to flee to sin or what is comfortable like the Israelites. Let it grow you and reconcile you to the Lord, again and again, knowing “Who [or what] can separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35).
So, let it be known, even in the midst of failure, Jesus is coming back and it will all be A-OK. That’s right. It will be A-OK. Trust me, I don’t say that light heartedly or to minimize whatever circumstance you are in. I say that proudly and with crisp clarity because I have more faith in who God is and what He can conquer than in the embarrassment or shame of failure that would say otherwise.
Dai is 4’10 and packs a punch! Her husband often tells her she has way too much energy for him (but he loves her anyway). She loves yoga, reading, celebrating people, and horror podcasts. Her ideal vacation is to a national park, and she is often caught laughing much too loud. But her deepest happy place is gathered around a meal with people, creating safe and fun environments for them to be known and loved.