Failure: It’s the New Black
It’s funny which memories from childhood linger in my mind.
One of the most vivid moments of my thirteenth year came at a soccer practice where my coach tried to instill in us the value of repetition. He explained that in a game, our bodies would divert blood and oxygen flow to support the working muscles. Very little oxygen would get to the brain, he continued. There would be no time for thinking, only doing. As he finished his pep talk, my hand shot into the air. “Is that why they call them dumb jocks?,”I quipped.
The coach just frowned at me, completely unimpressed by my quick wit and cleverness. My face flushed and, at 13, embarrassment is sure to engrave a memory permanently into your frontal lobe for all future decision-making purposes.
To this day, whenever I exercise I remind myself that my brain has very little oxygen in that moment and I should be careful as to what I say. Especially since not everyone appreciates my quick wit and cleverness.
This can be a difficult discipline while I am teaching aerobics classes. Which would explain the day that instead of shouting “you gotta love this song,” I shouted, “you gotta love this body.” It accounts for all the times during physio ball workouts that I have made completely inappropriate comments about where your balls should be and what you should be doing with them. It almost even justifies all the times that I have shouted “just a few more,” when really there were at least 100 more.
My classes can repeat back all sorts of isms that I have made famous when my words, devoid of fresh air, have simply come out all wrong.
About a month ago though, in the midst of a workout, I made a comment that I have pondered since.
There is this concept in exercise of taking the muscle to failure. It is the point at which the brain sends a signal and the muscle refuses to respond. It is the bicep refusing to curl, the quads refusing to jump, the abs refusing to hold that position. Failure, in the world of exercise, is a good thing. Failure is the beginning of strength.
So in this class a month ago, I was trying push the participants to failure. For someone who has never worked in that matter, it is difficult at first. Pain screams at you to stop, but if the muscle is still firing, you have not failed. In an effort to push the envelope, I turned to the class and announced “pain is not failure.”
Those words have followed me since.
I have struggled lately with feeling like a failure. All the dreams and ambitions I once thought were my destiny, appear now as impossibilities. The love and approval I have so desperately longed for, frowns upon me with more disappointment than ever. The hope and faith I have declared as the anchor of my soul, has left me feeling foolish.
I have considered myself a failure, when really I have just been feeling pain.
So I wonder then, what if failure in the real world is a good thing too? What if failure is the beginning of strength?
A hard-handed look at God would suggest that faith and failure are mutually exclusive. That with faith you should only be moving mountains. But a good hard look into the heart of God would speak otherwise.
Consider Peter who had all the answers, until he didn’t. He denied the Lord, stopped following Christ, and started fishing. Peter was in pain, His teacher and friend had been crucified. Yet when he stopped trying to say all the right things, when he returned to the basics of what he knew, then he found the only answer he would ever need. “Yes, Lord, I love you.” His faith began there, and his strength to care for people as God commissioned him.
In our greatest failures, we can also find our greatest faith. Faith does not exclude failure, faith demands it. Faith begins where all that we can do ends.
For the past month I decided to stop. Stop planning, stop trying to fix everything, stop trying to move forward. I wanted to experience true failure, and not just pain. I wanted to know that moment where I stopped and God began. I wanted to go back to the things I know.
I discovered that I have wonderful people in my life (even a few who appreciate my quick wit and cleverness). I remembered that my only real destiny is to love and care for them. I found a new strength to face the day. And when that fails me too, I will again look for faith.
For my New Year: I resolve to fail, to push myself to the moment of being vulnerable and then to let God do the rest. This is my resolution, because I am convinced that it will make me stronger. More importantly, that it will cause me to love deeper.