My writing buddy, Janet Cole, joins me today to talk about failure and God’s love.
Janet lives in rural Texas with her beautiful and spunky twelve-year-old daughter, Jadyn, and her husband, Jay, an amazing man God used to teach her to how to laugh and love again. She’s a computer geek and writer who loves home improvement projects, anything crafty, and, most recently, working out with Jay. But she really prefers to describe herself as a very blessed and ridiculously happy girl who has learned to cherish life, believe in miracles, watch for God things, and pray crazy.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9 NIVI pushed the motorcycle upright and flipped up the kickstand. My left hand held the clutch in while my right squeezed the brake. A push of the starter button and the engine roared to life beneath me.
Breath held. I turned the throttle and let out on the clutch slightly. And I killed it.
“Give it more gas.” Jay encouraged from a few feet away.
After killing it a few more times, I finally made the motorcycle move but stopped after a short distance.
Following my husband’s hand signals, (because there was no way I could hear him over the chug of the Harley engine) I walked the bike to a straightaway and started again.
This time I managed an entire circle of the empty parking lot. I breathed a little easier and held my head a bit higher.
Jay walked up and yelled, “That was good. Go around a few more times to get comfortable.”
I nodded, turned the throttle, let out the clutch… and killed it. Undeterred, I pushed the button to fire the engine and started the bike forward. A little rough, but I was moving.
Across the small parking lot.
Okay. Left turn coming up.
No. Left isn’t a good idea. Straight. We’ll just go straight.
Oh no. Gravel. Gravel’s bad.
And it’s too late to turn.
Stop. Let’s just stop.
Just like I’d been taught, I clamped down on the clutch and the brake. But I also accidentally turned the throttle a little.
The bike wobbled and started to lean. Feet down, I tried to stabilize it. But eight hundred pounds was no match for my scrawny little legs.
The motorcycle and I both met the concrete.
Jay ran over as I jumped up and stomped the ground, furious at myself. Tears sprang to my eyes, but I assured him my only damage was a rip in my jeans and a scraped knee.
The motorcycle lay on its side a few feet away. He lifted it and looked it over. All seemed fine. Only a tiny scratch on the mirror. Jay wasn’t mad, but I continued to apologize while I silently berated myself.
He drove the bike home to check it over. I took Jadyn to my friend’s house.
“Mommy, I just prayed that you wouldn’t be so mad at yourself.”
Jadyn’s words echoed on my way home. She was right, but I couldn’t let it go. I’d failed. And I might have ruined our trip.
You see, I’d taken a motorcycle course the week before to get my license. If Jay was ever hurt or sick, I wanted to at least be able to get the bike off the road. (And, after the course, I’d started entertaining the idea of maybe getting a cheap motorcycle myself.) Since we were leaving the next morning on five-day trip across ten states, I felt like I needed to practice on his bike before we left.
Looking back, I realize I set myself up for failure. His bike was a lot heavier and a lot more powerful than the small motorcycles I’d learned on. I should’ve started out on it just like I did on the others. Baby steps. But we only had a short time to practice, so I pushed it.
And I failed.
As I pulled up in our driveway and saw Jay with the front of the motorcycle taken apart, my heart dropped and the berating words in my head escalated.
You ruined the trip. Broke Jay’s bike. That class was a waste of money. Failure. Failure. Failure.
Jay hugged me as I walked up. “Everything’s fine. It didn’t do anything to it other than the little scratch on the mirror.”
I sat down and handed him tools as he put everything back together. “I’m sorry.”
“Quit beating yourself up. It’s fine. I’m surprised I haven’t ever done that.”
“But it’s your baby. I wrecked your baby.” My head hung.
He looked up from the bike. “You’re my baby. This is my motorcycle. Nothing’s broken and if it was, we would’ve fixed it. No big deal. I’m just glad you didn’t get hurt.”
His cocked his eyebrow and looked me straight in the eye. “You’re getting back on the bike. The problem wasn’t skill. It was in your head.”
He was right. Fear, uncertainty and indecisiveness were the reasons I laid the bike over.
I admit I don’t want to try again. I don’t like to fail, and I definitely don’t like to fail more than once. If I quit, there’s no more fear and I won’t fail again. Problem solved, right?
I wish it were that easy. Sure, it won’t be the end of the world if I never got back on the bike again. I could still ride on the back with Jay, and I’d be content. Irritated at myself, but content.
But that’s not always the case. We’ve all heard that Thomas Edison had one thousand failed attempts at the light bulb before he got it right. Henry Ford went broke five times before he succeeded. What if they’d given in to their failures? No light bulb. No assembly line.
Think of all the people in the Bible who failed miserably, but God used them mightily. David committed adultery and murder, but God called him a man after His own heart. Paul, when he was Saul, persecuted Christians, but God used him to write most of the New Testament and to bring the gospel to the Gentiles.
Just like Jay wants me to try again, God doesn’t want us failure to keep us down. Fear will make us want to quit. Fear of failure, fear of getting hurt, fear of the unknown. God doesn’t want us to give in to fear. He tells us in Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” And we can’t forget 2 Timothy 1:7, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”
I’ll get back on Jay’s motorcycle—and I’m sure I’ll kill it a few more times. Hopefully, I won’t lay it over again. It won’t be perfect. It won’t even be pretty, but I know without a doubt Jay will be there coaching me and encouraging me. He’ll love me no matter how many times I fail.
You’re God’s baby. He’s going to love you even when you mess up. He’s there to encourage you, hold you up, and cheer you on.
Let’s quit being mad at ourselves. Stop letting fear keep us down. Instead of focusing on what might happen if we fail, let’s think of what could happen if we succeed.
Who knows, one day you might see me driving down the road on my very own Harley.
What have you failed at and want to quit?
What is God asking of you that you haven’t tried because you’re afraid to fail?
What could happen if you succeed at that thing you’re afraid of?