The Right To Fail

Yesterday I received an email from a friend paralyzed by writer’s block. She’d recently finished her previous novel and couldn’t seem to move forward. Although, when I asked her to send me what she had, I realized her problem wasn’t lack of words but false expectations. All those rules she’d applied in draft fifth and sixth of her previous novel had sapped her creativity. And her confidence. She’d forgotten the drivel she’d started with and expected to produce a final draft the first time around.

Two years ago our daughter developed math phobia. She had a difficult, often hostile teacher, who was hard to please and being the people-pleaser that she is, this paralyzed her. Each problem was torturous. She was so afraid she’d get it wrong, so terrified of making a mistake, she couldn’t begin.

It took a bit of “worse-case-scenario” discussions to move her past this. Basically, I told her I didn’t care if she got it wrong, or even if she failed the class. All I wanted was for her to do her best. My straight-A student didn’t like to hear this, but once I brought it to a spiritual level, reminding her that her obedience to God was all that mattered, she was able to move forward.

We all have things that paralyze us. And we all have our comfort zones. So, we gravitate toward those things that come easily and are the most comfortable, and avoid those things that are difficult. But that leads to stagnation and God calls us to continual growth.

In Dr. Senske’s book, The Calling: Live a Life of Significance,* he encourages us to focus on our areas of weakness-to purposefully seek out new, challenging activities.

It reminds me of training I participated in in highschool. I was a distance runner. The longer the run, the better. Those short, fast turn-outs about killed me. Because speed wasn’t my thing. If left on my own, I would have avoided the drills and speed runs entirely, adding more and more miles to my day in an effort to hone my strength. But my coach knew better. He saw a weakness in me and zeroed in on that weakness.

What would happen if we were as intentional with our spiritual lives? What opportunities might come our way? What kind of growth would we experience?

So how might this transfer to real life?

I’ll give an example in mine. I’m a fiction gal. Fiction’s easy, and relatively non-offensive. Even though you sprinkle truth through out the pages, you never really make strong theological claims. This fall I was provided with two writing opportunities that moved me out of my comfort zone. Both present the gospel, and one requires an exegetical study of Scripture. Not something I’m very comfortable with! Needless to say, there’s been a bit of a learning curve, and to be honest, initially it would have been easier to avoid both assignments all together. But God calls us to growth, not stagnation.

This past year, my husband’s been working on our yard. In the beginning, this was a stretch for him. (Normally we hire people to do these sorts of things.) But after listening to me (again and again) remind him of the worst case scenario, (we could always hire someone after the fact to fix what he did.) he decided to try his hand. And for the most part, he’s done a wonderful job, gaining confidence along the way. Did it save us oodles of money? Not necessarily. There’s been a few costly mistakes along the way. But the way I see it? He’s funding his life-education, and to me, that’s invaluable.

How might this translate to your life? What are your areas of weakness? Make a list. Then brainstorm ways you could strengthen those areas. If you’re afraid to speak in public, purposefully seek out a few speaking engagements. Writing not your thing? Force yourself to write a few letters to loved ones. (Great way to share the gospel, by the way.)

My final admonition (to myself as well): bring it back to your audience of one. No matter what you’re doing, each day make it between you and God–no one else. Don’t worry about what your editor will say. Don’t worry about your boss. Don’t even think about the end result. Focus instead on your Savior and make each moment, each task, an act of praise.

1 Corinthians 10:31 “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

And if you don’t have a spiritual mentor, find one. Remember, if you’re not moving forward, in faith and life, chances are your slipping in the other direction.

*As I mentioned the previous time I referenced Dr. Senske’s book, there were parts of this book that appeared to be Lutheran specific, such as the emphasis on baptism and the use of rituals. Due to my limited knowledge, I am not certain if this is a semantics issue or a theological one, but I thought it worth mentioning.


  1. I know I’m behind on my blog reading but I just wanted to pop over to say “hi” and to thank you for your insights and encouragement with this post. =)

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