Failure Is (Not) An Option


It’s been a rough month.

It started with the flu. I woke up on Sunday morning one week and was a coughing, feverish, shaky mess. I decided after two days that being sick was not an option for me and dragged myself to work. It took me about ten minutes to realize that “mind over matter” wasn’t going to work. I was sick. Really sick.

Failure #1.

Yes, the flu was a failure to me. I couldn’t will it away. I was caught in its grasp until the virus ran its course. I had no control. I couldn’t work or be productive in any way. 

Upon my return to work, I realized that I was seriously behind on EVERYTHING…lessons, grades, other assorted paperwork. I sheepishly assured my bosses that I would get caught up within the week.

Failure #2.

Yes, being behind was a failure, too. I live to appear competent and in control. Now I didn’t look like either one. It felt terrible.

But I put a plan together. I would be in control once more! I plowed through my work, got things done. I had the perfect plan to be done by the deadline I gave my bosses, and it was HAPPENING. My world was in order once again.

Until I woke up that night with the unmistakable symptoms of either the world’s nastiest stomach bug or food poisoning. I’ll spare you the details, but you can imagine that the next day was not productive as far as work. 

I was still behind. Failure #3.

I eventually made my deadline by the narrowest of margins, but everything else in my life was out of order: my house, my relationships, my budget and tax filing. All had been neglected thanks to my illnesses and the zeal to get my work life together.

 I tried to get it together once again. I was filing my tax return…and reality hit. I made a mistake. A big mistake. A mistake that cost me a lot of money. I calculated, recalculated, researched. Yup. I had underestimated my taxes, and it was too late. I had to pay up with my savings. 

Failure #4. I NEVER make mistakes with taxes. Ever.

I spent a good part of that day curled up in a ball of defeat. My life had become, in my view, a disaster. Nothing was going well. Nothing. I kept asking God, What is this? A joke? A punishment? What are You doing here? I don’t get it.

And I’m still not sure I get it completely, but I’m seeing a pattern throughout all of these “failures.” Each one is based on an expectation of perfection from myself. I need to appear in control of my life at all times.  Mistakes and weaknesses are not OK.

During the current sermon series on The Everyday Gospel, we’ve learned a lot about limits and boundaries. It’s a different world entirely from the perfectionism I strive for. The idea that God deliberately sets limits on our lives is one that is far, far away from performance based Christianity. Thinking about God this way turns the events of the last month completely around.

 If I begin to think that all of these “failures” are really a part of God’s plan to shape me and limit me where I need limiting, then my attitude automatically refocuses on Him, not myself.

I’m just starting to really grasp some tough but important Truths: That life’s failures don’t define me. That circumstances beyond my control, like the flu, are not reflections of my weakness. That setbacks don’t break me. That mistakes happen and are survivable. 

And most importantly, that a gracious God is in charge of everything.

  Nancy Vasquez

Nancy Vasquez