As I start 2018, I’m overcome with the realization that I am going to fail. I look at myself in the bathroom mirror as I squeeze into my workout clothes, feeling a lot like ground-up sausage being stuffed into a casing, and I tell my un-made-up face: you do this workout today. Don’t even look over the fence into tomorrow. Don’t listen to the voice in your head whispering “What if you fail?”There really is, after all, only today. Your job is to get up and try today.
This is not the realization I want to have while I’m planning workout routines, meals, and budgets during January. This isn’t what I want to admit to myself when I’m thinking about my twenty-year reunion this upcoming summer, not what I’m hoping for when I’m designing a new website and starting a speaking ministry. This is not what my heart bleeds when I’m praying over our heart warrior son in the middle of the night. But this is the truth: there is no tomorrow. Only today.
We don’t get to know what’s coming in this big, beautiful, horrifying life. As much as this mama heart wants to predict and protect, I can’t. As much as I want to try for perfect, to calculate the impeccable amount of grace to couple with success, I can’t. And as much as my heart abhors it, I’m going to fail today. And I’m learning to be okay with that.
I sat in our Fresh Hope group last night, looking around at the faces of people I respect and admire, people who fight like I do against their mental illness every day. Those of us with a mental health diagnosis know failure deep. Failure looks like relapse, looks like feeling too good to take our meds. Failure looks like limits other people don’t have and we keep trying to dare. Failure whispers in our ear every time we put on workout clothes but how long will this workout routine really last?, and when we think about applying for a new job but how long until you go crazy again and have to quit like all the times before?, or when we think about opening our hearts up and sharing our struggle with someone new and remember how the last friend just up and quit you?
Our group–my people–sit in a circle and pour out our sutured-up hearts, pull broken dreams out of our wallets like old photos, weep over our humiliations. But we don’t stop. We keep coming, every Wednesday, even though for many of us? Failure is our copilot.
So what do we do in the face of January resolutions?
Last night we talked about changing the definition of failure altogether. What if failure is no longer an ending-up point? What if failure points us in a new direction? Every time I’ve “failed,” I’ve gotten better. I’ve learned. I’ve adapted. Maybe it wouldn’t have to sting so much if I could see failing as an arrow instead of a period.
I know if I’m living today right, I’m stretching. I’m running brave. I’m going out and daring big and when it’s all said and done, I might be landing flat on my face. 2017 was a good year for that: flat-out, pancake me. Who tried. Who believed. Who may have ended up in a heap, but went after a dream. Who failed flat-faced, scraped up on the concrete. But who also won so many lessons, discovered so much treasure. Who found her worth, who faced down the gremlins,Who do you think you are? and Who are you to deserve this blessing? Who is learning to live full, learning to walk proud.
In the end, I know I am going to fail. But I’m going to go out guns blazing, trying my damndest to live brave. When we go after a brave life, we can count on our failures–not our successes–to keep pointing the way.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
This video from Oprah and Brene Brown is a great way to kick-off your new year. A few questions we talked about in group were:
- Do you have a vision of what it looks like for you to live a brave life? How does it look for you physically, spiritually, relationally, financially?
- What are the voices that discourage you when you’re trying to go after that brave life? What do they say?
- How can you redefine failure to see it as a positive force in your life?