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Mistakes are not Failures

I used to be afraid of messing up royally. So much so, it immobilized me. If I were to be totally honest, feeling stuck was an awful existence. No one should have to live like that. Ever.

My biggest fear was public performance. Strangely, I was a cheerleader throughout middle and high school. I was friendly enough, and I could basically talk to anybody about anything.

Yet, I could not speak in front of a crowd.

I recall in high school stammering through an oral presentation in government class. Worse than my classmates gawking at me, we were being visited by a state evaluator—a stranger who would report back to the officials on how well the school was operating. I freaked. In fact, I stopped in the middle of my speech and said four words, “I can’t do this.” Without giving an explanation or receiving permission from my teacher, I walked back to my hard plastic chair and flopped down.  My best friend, Savitri, slipped me a note: You are so Brave.

But in my mind, I’d messed up. Big time!

Not only was I probably going to get a big fat F, I’d also embarrassed my school—maybe even the entire district. How could Savitri see bravery, when all I had felt was fear? Never would such a mistake happen to me again.

With that vow came a bit of  perfectionism and compulsive behavior to  guarantee not messing up. I didn’t want to do anything, unless I did it exactly right, the first time. Being afraid to make a mistake can cause procrastination, and often, an inability to make a single decision without someone else’s input. We ought not live like that, either.

I’ve since given presentations to high government officials. When I was asked to present at my class reunion, I readily accepted without hesitation. On the evening of the event, I stood before my classmates with my notecards in hand. I’d prayed that all would go well. I’d already checked, and the Powerpoint slides were working just fine. Just as I started to speak, someone decided to dim the lights. They couldn’t see with them on … I could see with them off.

Lord, here we go again!

Everything was in order, except my perfect, flawless plan. That’s when I heard Savitri yell out an answer to the first slide. And people chimed in. I turned to the next one. More people engaged, and laughter filled the crowded room. My mistake of not planning for the lights to be out, or memorizing my notes, had turned into a huge success!

Now, I know that fear and worry cast shadows of doubt on the Light that is there to guide me. As I walk in Christ, there is no failure, because He cannot fail. When I look back, I realize that when I stopped being scared of messing up …

I allowed myself to fall in love with a wonderful man, a quiet guy.

I gave in to my desire to become a mother. He blessed me doubly.

I gained friendships around the globe, pushing past language and cultural barriers.

I changed careers, despite my inexperience in a new field.

I started blogging, sharing my most intimate thoughts.

I discovered God’s perfect peace, and was finally able to rest.

A thought provoking message entitled “But What if I Mess up?” was written by Kiersti Plog­­­­­­­­­­ (http://kierstiplog.com/but-what-if-i-mess-it-up/) It actually prompted me to blog about the fear of messing up.

I’ve given myself permission to goof up sometimes.  And I’m learning to embrace the discomfort of not knowing how to do everything perfectly. God is a God of second chances and I count on having His grace as I need it.  Indeed, mistakes are not failures. And, thank God, failures are not fatal. Jesus paid a high price for my deliverance. I’ve  chosen to not ignore the cost; but rather, to walk in freedom, even if I stumble along.

What mistakes have you made that ended up being a success?


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