Posted in Character, Faith

When Our Best Isn’t Enough

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It can be hard to give our very best to do something we believe the Lord has called us to do, and have our efforts fall short. Sometimes our best simply isn’t enough. We don’t meet our organizational goals. Troubled relationships are not mended. Our exemplary work isn’t recognized. Living for Jesus doesn’t mean that we will always win or succeed. In the midst of disappointment or heartache, we can be grateful for the chance to shine for Him. Regardless of the outcome, we can rest assured that the Lord is pleased. I shared the following as a post in 2012 on Facebook as a note.

“It wasn’t supposed to end this way.” My aunt’s face was somber. As our eyes met, her disappointment coursed through me. She had driven an hour to watch me compete in the annual Klamath County Potato Festival. “You were, by far, the best contestant here. You had the best stage presence and the best talent. You were the best. You should have won.”

I thanked my aunt and gave her a hug. A stream of supporters cut through the auditorium. I pasted on the sincerest smile I could muster and listened to their condolences, “Sorry you didn’t win. It wasn’t supposed to end this way.”

It was the fall of 1984. Months earlier I had seen the announcement for the Potato Festival. It was a local competition, designed to honor the potato farmers in our region and recognize their important contributions. Every participant was given a $50 savings bond. The winner was awarded a $1,000 scholarship to the college of her choice, plus served as the Potato Festival Queen for the year at various community functions. Throughout high school I had imagined participating in the Miss Klamath County pageant and beyond, but I was not eligible because I was a Canadian citizen. The Potato Festival would be my opportunity.

I was thrilled to be chosen out of a group of girls to represent Henley High School, but I had a greater purpose in mind–to represent Jesus Christ and be His ambassador throughout all the Potato Festival festivities. “Lord, I don’t care if I win. Help me to show You to everyone around me.” I prayed that prayer often, and would immediately be filled with a renewed sense of purpose. The Potato Festival contestants, chaperones, and committee were my mission field. Wherever we went, I determined to show God’s love to others. I cheered on the girls, encouraged and expressed appreciation to the chaperones, and shared my faith in Christ every chance I got.

“Jesus loves you.”
“May I share with you how Christ has changed my life.”
“How may I pray for you today?”

The competition spanned two weeks, with a parade, multiple interviews, and two performances. The first performance showcased the girls’ poise on stage and their ability to answer a question on the spot. My question was about church discipline, and I excitedly and confidently shared what the Book of Matthew said on the subject. On the night of the second performance, the auditorium was charged with electricity. Two of the girls were crying backstage. Stage fright had gotten the best of them. I prayed with them and helped to calm their nerves.

The Master of Ceremony introduced me, and I glided onto the stage. As I sang, the Holy Spirit carried me along. “Go ahead, drive the nails in My hands. Laugh at Me where you stand…Go ahead, and say I’m dead and gone. But you will see that you were wrong.”

I captured the attention of my audience. “I’ll rise again. Ain’t no power on earth can tie Me down. I’ll rise again. Death can’t keep Me in the ground.”

The notes lilted through the air, and God’s love reached out to the people. As I scanned the crowd, some were contemplative, others had tears streaming down their faces. I finished the last syllable. A pause of silence. Then applause and cheers erupted. The message had been delivered and received by many.

During the finale, the runners up were announced and then the Potato Festival Queen. My name was called as the First Runner Up. Several gasps came from the crowd, followed by loud whispers. The audience had followed me for two weeks. They had watched me come in first in “poise,” first in “the interview,” and first in “talent.” They knew I had been selected by the chaperones as the one who best exemplified Potato Festival qualities. What the audience did not observe was my struggle to sell raffle tickets. The fourth category of the competition was ticket sales, and I had done poorly, coming in second to last place. When all the points were tallied, my wins were not enough to off set the fourth category. I had come in second place.

I lay in bed that night–after I had finished putting away the chairs, thanked the straggling crowd for their support, and congratulated the Potato Festival Queen a final time. I reflected on the Potato Festival with tears of disappointment and exhaustion. I had given everything and still had not emerged the winner. The loss overwhelmed me. The parting words of my supporters bombarded me. “It wasn’t supposed to end like this.”

And then I remembered all the opportunities to care for people and to share God’s love with them. I had tried to encourage everybody and had gotten to pray with some. I had done my very best to be Christ’s ambassador, making a positive impression, and many lives had been impacted. It wasn’t supposed to end like this? I settled my head into the pillow, wiped away the tears, and grinned. “Thank you, Lord. This is exactly the way it was supposed to end.”

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand (Psalm 37:23-24, NIV).

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14, NIV).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, You know that I can be competitive and driven. You know how hard I work to do my best, and how hard it is when things don’t go the way I want. Help me to remember that when trying my best isn’t enough, I have done what is more important–to live for You and to shine Your light in this world. No matter what the results, encourage my heart with Your loving presence. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Four Steps to Facing Failure

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In my life time, I have heard many quotes on facing failure and learning from mistakes. Just listen to the wisdom of some people who have been successful. They can be quite inspiring.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
– Samuel Beckett (novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet)

“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.”
– Eloise Ristad (musician and author)

“Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.”
– Robert T. Kiyosaki (businessman and founder of Rich Dad Company)

On the other hand, sayings like these can be very discouraging to someone who has just experienced the sting of failure. Their simplicity seems to delegitimize the pain of failing.

Can I be honest about this? It hurts to fail. I don’t want to put time, energy, and resources into planning and reaching a goal only to fail.

I’m certainly not successful like the people featured above, but I just have to say this. It’s okay not to like failing. Really.

Maybe you made a plan, put in lots of effort, and didn’t meet a goal. Maybe you studied hard and didn’t pass a test. Maybe you thoroughly researched an idea and it didn’t produce results. Maybe you made a commitment to a relationship and it didn’t last. It’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to grieve. Failure is a type of loss, and loss is painful.

Eventually though, when you’ve properly experienced the loss, you need to get back up, learn from the mistakes, and try again. How can you face failure in a healthy way?

  1. Take time to experience the loss. I know I already said this, however, don’t skip over this step. Each situation will be different, but it is important not to minimize your emotions.
  2. Identify what you did well. All is not lost. Celebrate the positive elements and accomplishments. Ask others for their feedback. Their perspective is valuable.
  3. Examine what you need to improve. Think about how you could do things differently, and then determine to make the necessary changes. Again, ask for input from others. They may see things that you missed.
  4. Above all, remember that you are dearly loved by your heavenly Father. Your worth is not determined by your failures or your successes. He loves you. Period.

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you (Deuteronomy 31:6, NLT).

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love (Romans 5:3-5).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that my worth is not based on my accomplishments. Help me to answer Your call, give my all, and learn from my mistakes. Be my strength and encouragement. Be my teacher and guide. Please remind me that failure is never final when I keep my eyes on You and refuse to give up. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

Posted in Character, Faith, Servant Leadership

Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously!

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Leadership is serious business. Leaders are given weighty responsibility that others simply do not carry. There can be incredible pressure to perform, inspire, succeed, expand…I have learned many important lessons while on this leadership journey. Some came from the school of hard knocks; others from well-respected mentors. One of the most important lessons is: Don’t take yourself so seriously!

I heard these words often as a young woman trying to make a mark on this world. I would agonize over missed answers rather than rejoice in scoring an A on an exam. I would replay minor mistakes of a performance over and over again in my head. I stressed out about small details of projects that were less than perfect. I was ambitious, tightly strung, kind to others, but a brutal task master to myself. Thankfully I discovered God’s grace along the way. As I result, I experience much less internal stress and enjoy leading others.

“Don’t take yourself so seriously!” is a great maxim, but what does it really look like? For me, it includes the following statements I try to live by.

This is God’s deal. I heard this one regularly from a former boss and current friend, a risk-taking visionary who boldly invites others to join the mission. The idea is I am responsible to pray and plan, and then execute the plan to the best of my ability. However, there will always be variables outside of my control. But I believe that God is in control. I am called to do my part and release the outcome to God.

“No” does not mean failure. It is disappointing to face a closed door to a promising opportunity, or to hear that somebody else has been selected for a contract. Disappointing…but it doesn’t have to be devastating. It simply means this is not the right timing or that there is a better plan. The Lord sees every detail–past, present, and future. I trust Him, as He lovingly weaves them all together to achieve His purposes.

Keep a sense of humor. It’s okay to laugh at myself. No, really. I am an imperfect human being after all. Despite every determined, right motivated effort, I still make mistakes. And the older I get, the more silly mistakes I seem to make. There is freedom in humbly admitting I am wrong, instead of trying to maintain a polished image. There is even greater freedom in finding the humor, and then laughing about it. In every situation, the joy of the Lord is my strength.

The Westminster Catechism states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” My number one aim is to honor the Lord. When life and leadership are all about Him, I take Him seriously, and not myself.