Flirt­ing With Fail­ure

Two ac­ci­dents and a les­son

Activated - - FRONT PAGE - ByJosephMai

As the sun was set­ting, I walked briskly to­ward the bus sta­tion af­ter a tir­ing day at work. I knew from ex­pe­ri­ence that the city bus didn’t come by that of­ten, and I didn’t want to miss it.

A teenager sport­ing fash­ion­able Oak­ley sun­glasses, a plush black suit, and a hair­cut with de­signed grooves shaved into the sides above his ears stood in front of the mini-su­per­mar­ket. His glasses and stance could have passed for some­one ap­ply­ing for a po­si­tion of pri­vate body­guard.

I chuck­led at this sight, but it also re­minded me of an in­ci­dent that hap­pened to me as a teenager. My bud­dies and I were hang­ing out in our neigh­bor­hood when a friend of ours sped by on his new scooter, only to sud­denly stop and swerve in our di­rec­tion. I was in awe of how cool he was. His walk, his talk, even his clothes and gelled hair set our group’s fash­ion trends.

“Wanna take it for a spin?” he asked me, his tone mak­ing me feel like “one of the bros.” As he leaned the mo­tor­cy­cle to­ward me, I re­mem­ber think­ing that it didn’t mat­ter that I had no ex­pe­ri­ence in rid­ing one. I could only think about how awe­some it would feel to race off into the sun­set, with movie cred­its rolling down the screen to a beat-heavy song, with in­cred­i­ble gui­tar riffs. On my re­turn, my friends would say, “Nice spin!” as the wheels stopped only inches away from the im­pact.

Un­for­tu­nately, that’s not the way things played out. I revved up the mo­tor­cy­cle, and be­fore I knew it, the bike and I had shot across to the other side of the street and into a parked car. Of course, my friends were stunned and hor­ri­fied rather than im­pressed, and as I watched an oil pud­dle form at my feet, I felt like a freshly pricked bal­loon—com­pletely de­flated.

The first thing I did af­ter get­ting home was drag my­self to my room and col­lapse in bed, fully clothed. I slept this ac­ci­dent off for a whole day. Noth­ing could make me feel bet­ter.

A decade af­ter this hu­mil­i­a­tion, I met with an­other un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent. One dread­ful morn­ing …

Boy, those kids sure are loud! I thought, as I nav­i­gated the turns on a moun­tain road. The laugh­ing in the back seat grew louder, and I be­came more ir­ri­tated. I re­ally should say some­thing! Then I heard one of the chil­dren shout, “I’m go­ing to throw this out the win­dow!”

I in­stinc­tively turned my head back­wards, and in that split sec­ond, I heard the sound of crunch­ing metal and plas­tic. There’d been some­one in the in­com­ing lane, and of course, I’d swerved right in front of them.

It’s a strange thing about car ac­ci­dents. No eerie warn­ing mu­sic starts to play. There’s no flash­ing lights or dark smoke. All you hear is “Crash!”

In the po­lice sta­tion, I sat face to face with a young of­fi­cer who took down the car ac­ci­dent se­quence, ask­ing for my ver­bal con­fir­ma­tion af­ter each sen­tence. The driver whose car I’d hit sat next to me the whole time, star­ing and nod­ding.

Then an­other po­lice­woman took my photo to con­firm that the driver was ac­tu­ally me. I hadn’t had time to straighten my shirt or wipe off my de­spon­dent look. Not ex­actly a Ko­dak mo­ment!

I re­mem­bered hav­ing paid for com­pre­hen­sive cov­er­age for my car, so that kept me from pan­ick­ing right there in the po­lice sta­tion. But later, when I spoke with the in­sur­ance com­pany on the phone, it turned out that they would only cover part of the ex­pense. We were on the hook for $600! On top of it, we were in the mid­dle of mov­ing houses! Need­less to say, I felt as low as I ever had.

As I lay in bed that night, the all­too-fa­mil­iar sickening feel­ing set­tled deep in my stom­ach. I hid from the world un­der my cov­ers and just wanted to sleep. Some­thing, though, about this car ac­ci­dent was dif­fer­ent from the crash of my teens. This time I had the com­fort of a dear wife and a close re­la­tion­ship with a Friend who has never left me alone.

“Do you want me to pray for you?” my wife gen­tly whis­pered. I nod­ded in agree­ment.

It is im­pos­si­ble to live with­out fail­ing at some­thing, un­less you live so cau­tiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by de­fault. —J. K. Rowl­ing (b. 1965)

I’m most proud of the bless­ings that God has be­stowed upon me, in my life. He’s given me the vi­sion to truly see that you can fall down, but you can still get back up. Hope­fully I’ll learn from my mis­takes and have the op­por­tu­nity to strengthen and im­prove the next thing I do. —Martin Lawrence (b. 1965)

We need to teach the highly ed­u­cated man that it is not a dis­grace to fail and that he must an­a­lyze every fail­ure to find its cause. He must learn how to fail in­tel­li­gently, for fail­ing is one of the great­est arts in the world. — Charles Ket­ter­ing (1876–1958)

Keep on be­gin­ning and fail­ing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger un­til you have ac­com­plished a pur­pose—not the one you be­gan with per­haps, but one you’ll be glad to re­mem­ber. — Anne Sul­li­van (1866–1936)

As she prayed, re­lief and com­fort flooded my down­cast heart. My stom­ach be­gan to feel much bet­ter as well.

I was re­minded of King David in the Bi­ble, who must have felt pretty low af­ter some se­ri­ous col­li­sions in his per­sonal and pub­lic life. His scan­dalous “wife nab­bing” must have been hu­mil­i­at­ing. Guilt and dis­cour­age

1 ment must have also plagued him over the lack of con­trol that he had over his adored, yet un­ruly, sons Ab­sa­lom and Adoni­jah. I can’t imag

2 ine the crit­i­cism and blame that he must have re­ceived when God judged the en­tire na­tion be­cause of his sin.

3 And yet it was these very same fail­ures—not the gi­ant slay­ing or the Philis­tine slaugh­ter­ing—that taught David the hum­bling, yet lib­er­at­ing truth: what a mess we all are with­out God.

He once grate­fully con­fessed, “The Lord is close to the bro­ken­hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

4 It’s like a quote I once mem­o­rized that has en­cour­aged me af­ter a few of my fum­bles. “Con­fess­ing to our­selves con­tin­u­ally what a mess we are helps us to avoid that spirit of pride which causes us to crit­i­cize and con­demn oth­ers.”

Je­sus made you just the way you are, mis­takes and all, and He loves you just the same!

He once en­cour­aged the apos­tle Paul by telling him, “My grace is all you need. Only when you are weak can ev­ery­thing be done com­pletely by my power.”

5 So if you find your­self flirt­ing with fail­ure, don’t be dis­mayed! There is a Friend who will never leave you, who’ll help you re­sist the sirens of dis­cour­age­ment and de­spair and bring you to the haven of His com­fort, ac­cep­tance, and for­give­ness.

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