Funny word, “failure”. We tend to judge everything that misses the mark according to our expectations: Anything that does not invoke praise and accolades from others is deemed a failure. The times I have whined to God in deep sorrow for my failings have grown beyond my ability to number them.
“Lord, I know this was from you – I did it – I failed at it – I am a despicable wretch! For example: remember way back in 2001, when you said, “Write a book”, and I did? I am yet to see it on the New York Times best-seller list. Your book would have been #1 on that list – forever!”
The Bible comes to mind. “No disrespect, but why didn’t you just write it yourself? I mean, really.” Countless people have written and rewritten it until the essence of your message is often blurred and confusing.
God: “Are you finished, Linda?”
“Oops (a Job moment), “Yes, sorry.”
God: “I’m not interested in how the world views your work. I am ONLY interested in how you trust and obey me. I thought your story of surrendering to me was beautiful. Okay, there were a few typos. But, that part about ‘giving birth’? I’m still laughing at that one. So, will you please quit your whining!?”
When we are obsessed with success and failure, trusting in God’s plan can become obscured by fear. Often, I read these magnificent words from Thomas Merton to remind myself of God’s call for me to trust him:
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that my desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
I have learned countless lessons about trusting God. Many of my attempts were wrought with uncertainty and assumptions of failure throughout eleven years of my book-writing adventure. But I knew without a doubt it was God speaking to my heart from the beginning. His words, “Write a book”, were not cloaked in ambiguity. They were clear and undeniable.
The book’s first edition (yes, there have been two) was an unbelievably daunting challenge. God made it sound simple enough. But, here’s where I began to falter: I made some very costly errors in judgment, and the book was published with several editing issues. I was angry with the publisher and myself and proceeded to complain to God.
Through tears of disappointment and self-doubt, I wanted to know why he had directed me to write a book when I understood nothing about the process that would ensue. I felt I had failed him because everything seemed to go wrong. So, here’s God, ears covered, “Blah, blah, blah, I can’t hear you. Get it published.” Fine. I attempted many times to offer it to publishers, becoming the recipient of more rejections than Charles Manson when he tried to find a date for the prom! So, I self-published.
After the fact, I read a book about self-publishing. Wanna know what it said? “NEVER, write a book FIRST! Get your name out there with published articles, establish a following, and then write your book.” Apparently, God failed to read that book.
Anyway, I was confused about how to proceed. Did I mention that I had 2500 books delivered to my doorstep and knew nothing about marketing? Did I mention that?! Then, to my utter amazement, people actually bought the book; people not even related to me!
The next surprise? The publication, and subsequent sales, of my very imperfect book, led to speaking engagements – a notion that I found incomprehensible since I had never felt the slightest longing to stand in front of an audience and reveal my true self. All my attention-grabbing stunts during my childhood had been designed to hide the real me! The very idea of speaking to a group of people horrified the adult me. I wanted to slap myself silly for saying “yes” without consulting my more reluctant self. What a long list of grumblers I follow: Moses (Exodus 4:10-17) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 4-9), just to name two we know well.
Did I mention that the book is now in its second edition (edited more professionally)? I’m still not sure why. Still no call from the New York Times. But – and here is where God has wanted me all along – it doesn’t matter if I sell even one. I am happy to give them away. God said, “Write”, – so I wrote. Everything else is fodder for Satan.
I, like Job, learned the hard way to accept being on a need-to-know basis when I feel God calling me, like Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), to get on my camel and ride. No GPS, no roadmap, no crystal ball. I now find myself enjoying the adventure, even with blindfolds on!
So the next time you find yourself making room on the shelf for your next trophy, only to stare at the empty space it should have been placed in, try sitting quietly with the lesson. It’s there. Pray and wait for it. Like when you are passed over for the job rightfully yours, stop to consider the lesson. When your plans to join a mission team in Haiti are dashed because you could not raise the funds – you got it – stop and listen to God. There’s a lesson there somewhere.
I can never give up trusting that God’s plan for me is PERFECT, even when everyone else tells me I am a pathetic loser!