Thursday, December 9, 2010

Failure

E and I drive across the state tomorrow.  We just watched the weather report, saw that our mountain pass of choice is buried, literally buried (!), under snow.  Now we're stalwart northwesterners, have the requisite four-wheel-drive vehicle, but I'm not really looking forward to anything but a straightforward trip. Actually I think you might be better off calling me a wimp, come to think of it.  And I won't even be doing the driving.  That will be E's job.

I was thinking about driving this morning.  Here's a fact:  when I turned 16, I wasn't home.  I on a trip with my grandmother and sister, visiting some far-flung relatives of my grandmother.  I hadn't wanted to take that trip just because I'd be gone on that very important birthday, and therefore be unable to get my driver's license on that exact day.  Instead, I was driving around Denver, Colorado with some great-uncle's great-nephew on the other side--no relation to me.  This boy (whose name I can't remember) drove a souped up car, spoke to me almost not at all, and seemed to spend a whole lot of time shifting gears just to hear them grind.  If he'd had cigarettes rolled up in his t-shirt, I would have sworn I'd stumbled into a 50's sitcom.  It was pretty excruciating for that very sheltered naive Christian girl. 

Three weeks later, after our swing through Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, we finally got home and my father took me over to the county seat to get my driver's license.  And here's another fact:  I took that driving test and failed it.  By two blasted points.  But two might as well have been a million, because 78 wasn't going to give me a license for another two weeks.  I blew the parallel parking and backing around the corner. Two weeks later, Dad took me back and I got a 98. 

But you know how long that failure mattered?  Just those two weeks.  Once I got the license, that failure was wiped away completely.  I've been driving for 37 years now and no one's ever cared that I didn't pass that test the first time out.

There are a whole lot of things like this in life, when you think about it.  Like SAT scores, or GREs or LSTATS or whatever standardized test a person is fretting over.  These things help a person get into something.  One that admission has been accomplished, their purpose is also completed as well. These things are tools, and that's all.  I remember dreading getting my report card in high school because along with my report card would come the quarterly lecture from my parents about my not trying hard enough.  "We expect you to do your best, and this isn't your best."  I really hated those lectures...but I'm not sure I really believed them when they told me I was capable of more.   There were failures in there that seemed to prove them wrong.  Seventh grade math, for example.  Math in general.

But then I went to college.  And all those Bs and Cs that my parents had been so disappointed in?  They disappeared as if they'd never been.  It was a whole new world.  A clean slate.  That's how long my high school grades mattered.  And my college grades matter just long enough to get me into grad school and...well you get my point.

We're fortunate that we always have chances to start over.  That's what Christmas tells us.  To start afresh with a clean slate, perhaps it's only a metaphor unless we actually repent, and surrender and start again with Him.  Allow Him to make us new.  My failures don't count. That I failed in school or driving or in life.  All wiped clean.  As far as the east is from the west. 

I wish I could figure out how to say this so that those around me who struggle with failure, whose chemistry distorts things, could really get this and feel hope and expectation and maybe even joy in this season of great hope and joy.  Oh how I wish that.  Because if it's true--and I stake my life on it!--it's available for all who believe.   In other words, He is who He says He is and...He is able to keep you from falling.
Amen.

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