Failing Does Not Make Me a Failure

She woke up at midnight and couldn’t get back to sleep, so she stayed up.

Failed at sleeping.

She took her early morning walk but got tired so cut it short.

Failed at walking.

She tried to transfer some photos from her phone to her desk top computer, but phone wouldn’t recognize the computer.

Failed at picture transferring

She ate her normal breakfast and lunch, then continued eating everything she could find throughout the afternoon.

Failed at dieting.

She attached a zipper onto the tote bag she was making, only the fabric got pinched and the stitching was uneven.

Failed at zipper attaching.

She hemmed a pillow she was making, taking four tries to get it passable – not good, but not bad enough to try again.

Failed at hemming

She thought about doing her afternoon walk, but couldn’t make herself go.

Failed at walking, again.

She tried to clean up a pile of clutter, but got overwhelmed and stopped.

Failed at clutter removing.

I’m such a failure, she thought.

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“You’re not a failure with Me.” came the quick but soft voice she had come to recognize.

As she thought about those words, she gratefully realized that she may have experienced many failures that day, but SHE was not a failure in the eyes of God.

God knew just what to say and just when to say it. Amazing what a difference those few words made!

Hanging on

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She hung there, grasping the rope with one hand and wondering if she would be able to hang on this time. No matter how hard she had held on in the past, she had always ended up falling off. Her fingers just weren’t that strong.

She looked down. And wish she hadn’t. She already knew what lay below. Rocks strewn around, thorny bushes, putrid water. From experience, she knew the fall would hurt no matter where she landed.

She looked up, grateful to be hanging from the rope rather than down there. It was actually pleasant up here, she thought. Fresh air, blue sky, a sense of peaceful freedom. If only she could hang on.

Her thoughts were interrupted by some people who walked past her as she walked along the beach. She wasn’t really hanging by an rope. Actually, the whole hanging by the rope thing was a picture that had formed in her mind as she contemplated her new level of trust in God’s promises to her and in her growing grasp of her identity in Christ. She felt strong in her faith, peaceful trust that He can and will take care of everything that concerned her. It felt like she was hanging from a spiritual rope and enjoying the fresh air and blue sky. That’s fine for now, she thought. I’m not being tested. What will happen when I am? Will I fall like I’ve done every time in the past?

As you’ve practiced what I’ve told you to do, your fingers have gotten stronger. You can hang on. But if you do fall off,  you will get another chance. One of these times, you will no longer fall.

And she thought of some of the other ropes in her life, the ones she no longer had to fight to stay on: her belief in God, her salvation, and her faith that God will help her accomplish what He calls her to do. But this rope seems so much thicker than those other ropes. Her fingers could barely wrap around it. And she had fallen off this rope more than a few times already.

That’s how you felt when you first tried hanging from those other ropes. But with practice and perseverance, your fingers stretched and grew stronger. The same will happen with this rope.

So she relaxed and hung there in the air, hoping she wouldn’t fall, but confident that if she did, it wouldn’t be the end. With her amazingly patient and faithful God, there is always another chance.

The Attack… and Some Brown Leaves

Already feeling low from struggling with a decision she was finding hard to make, she was not prepared for her dad’s attack.

“Christians are all ignorant fools,” he told her. “Too stupid to use their own minds, they just follow whatever the church says. Blind faith. Stupid faith.”

“It’s not like that,” she tried to explain. But he wouldn’t listen.

“You’re no better than them. You have been brainwashed into believing God can actually love you. That He’s actually interested in your life. He is God! Creator of the universe! He doesn’t care about each tiny individual. He made the world and now it’s up to us.”

“But that’s not what Jesus said…”

“Jesus!” he interrupted her. “He may have been a good man, but he was not God. He didn’t know any more than anyone else. People just made him into something he wasn’t because they needed something to hold on to when life got tough. Jesus is nothing more than a crutch.”

“He’s more than that, dad. He is God and He is with us. I know! I met Him!”

“If you believe that, you’re no better than any of those other delusional people. If you were smart, you’d drop this fantasy and look at life as it really is.”

“What about the Bible? The Bible says that Jesus is God and..” She was cut off again.

“It was written by ignorant people trying to explain a world they didn’t understand. We know better now. Science has proven most of the bible inaccurate. It’s just a book of fairy tales…”

And on and on he went, his voice rising as his anger against Christianity grew. Eventually, he got tired of ranting and left the room. She sat there, feeling as sore and bruised as if he had actually beat her. She slowly got up and got ready for bed. She started to pray but stopped. How could she? She didn’t deserve to be with Jesus. She had not been able to defend Him, to speak up for Him, to make her dad understand. She had let Jesus down. She felt like she couldn’t have Jesus anymore – not because He didn’t want her, but because they just couldn’t be together anymore. And she wanted Him. Not just because she needed Him and without Him, she wouldn’t have life, but because she loved Him. And so she wept.

The next day was spent in misery. She felt like God was on her side concerning her belief VS her dad’s belief, but that didn’t help much. She still felt like she had let Jesus down.

That night, before entering the church hall for the weekly prayer meeting she attended, she decided to take a walk down the church yard. It was dark, and the ground was covered with brown leaves from the many trees in the yard. As she walked with her eyes down, she began talking to God, telling Him how she felt. She really didn’t feel like attending the meeting. She was in no mood to go in there and greet everyone with hugs and smiles and pretend everything was OK. So she asked God what she needed to do.

“Rejoice, and praise Me in song and with your words.”

She sighed. “OK. Fine. But it won’t be emotional.” Then she added, “Please keep me from being a wet blanket on everyone else.”

As she walked, she pictured Jesus walking next to her. As often was the case, her image seemed to take on a life of its own, and she saw Jesus act like He was feeling as down as she was and kick at the leaves.

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This made her smile. Jesus feeling down? And kicking at the leaves? She looked up at Him as she joined Him in kicking leaves, and she saw that He was smiling.

“Jesus, You are amazing! You always know just the right thing to do for me!”

And she went into the hall to greet everyone with hugs and smiles and act like everything was OK. Because it was.

A Rose of Affirmation

She was feeling down. Again. Seems she was always feeling down these days.

Her first year walking with Jesus had been amazing. Full of surprises  and discoveries. This second year so far has not been like that. She seemed to be frequently plagued with self-doubts and confusion.

This latest doubt centered on the baptism experience everyone seemed to be talking about. The Holy Spirit baptism. One of incredible joy and power. Or so she had been told. She had yet to experience that for herself. She knew the drill. Ask for the baptism. Get someone to lay hands on her and pray along with her. Yield to the Holy Spirit. Then He comes in with all His glory. Or at least as much of it as humans can take.

She had done all that. Several times. She never felt any of the joy people spoke of. In fact, she never felt anything, and she didn’t feel any different now than before all those prayers. So, what was the problem? Certainly it couldn’t be with the Holy Spirit. It had to be with her. She must be defective somehow. So how could she be an effective witness for God if she was not even capable of receiving this baptism? And how could she pray or worship God if she was this defective? How could He even be even a little pleased with her when she was so broken?

She was desperate to talk to someone about this. To open up and share her doubts and feelings. But she was alone. She asked the Lord to bring someone into her life who she could discuss this with her, help her make sense of it all, but no one came.

So on this night, she went to bed with her thoughts and doubts and feelings swirling around in her head.  As she thought about everything that had happened to her since her encounter with Jesus the year before, she fell asleep. When she awoke, she was surprised to find a pleasant feeling of relief had replaced the confused desperation of the night before. It was as if she had talked out her doubts and fears with someone while she slept.

“You did. With Me.” But she didn’t hear the quiet whisper as she prepared for the day.

A little while later, her eyes grew wide as she saw the rose one of her students was carrying. The rose was the biggest and prettiest she had ever seen. And it had just been handed to her! She was speechless!

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In the past, in that first year of exciting experiences, many times  after she had struggled between God and her doubts and had chosen to believe God, she would receive a gift from someone the next day. She had come to see those gifts as a pat on the back from God for making the right decision.

So she knew this amazing rose came from her amazing God! The student may have handed it to her, but she knew it was really God Himself handing her the rose. And in her spirit, she could hear Him say, “How can you say I am not pleased with you? You are my daughter! I am well pleased with you. You are OK just the way you are!”

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Just Like… The Kitten in the Woods

“Let’s try this trail!” My son pointed to a narrow trail through a little piece of woods that bordered the street we were bicycling on.

“It looks hard,” I answered. “Maybe we should get off our bikes.”  Inside, I was picturing riding down the steep slope, hitting that hump at the bottom, and flying off into the trees.

“Nah, we can handle it,” my husband said as he took off, my son right behind him.

My daughter and I watched the boys disappear over the hump, then turned to look at each other.

“You go next,” I told my daughter. I still wasn’t sure this was a smart thing for a middle aged lady to do.

After watching her navigate the path as smoothly as the boys, I cautiously started off. Gaining speed, I almost screamed when I hit the hump but managed to stay on the bike even as I made the turn that lay right behind it. When I came to a stop, the others cheered. We walked our bikes a few more steps around some branches when my daughter stopped us.

“Do you hear that?” she asked.

We listened quietly a few minutes before we heard it too.

Just like I heard you when you called to Me.

“It’s coming from over there.” My husband pointed across the little stream that ran by the trail.

It took a few more minutes before we spotted the tiny gray form. It was on the other side of the stream, meowing pitifully. It would look at us, then try to cross the cold water. After several unsuccessful tries,  it gave up and paced up and down the edge of the water, looking at us as it continued to cry. She couldn’t get to us, so we decided to find a way to get to her.

Just like I did when I went to the cross for you.

It wasn’t until we got back home with the tiny kitten that we discovered just how bad a shape she was in.

cassi - CopyShe was very young, probably less than a month, wet, cold, covered with fleas. One eye was closed, covered with a brown crusty film, and her other eye wasn’t that much better off. There was a smelly discharge coming from her ears, and she had a kind of wheezing cough.

Just like you were when I found you.

Even so, we fell in love with her immediately. We saw past the disease and filth to the vulnerable and sweet kitten that she was.

Just like I see past all your sins and failures to the lovely treasure you are.

Even though we couldn’t imagine loving her any more than we already did, we knew we couldn’t leave her in that condition.

Just like I couldn’t leave you in your condition.

“She’s going to the vet first thing tomorrow,” my husband said. “She looks pretty sick.”

“She must be hungry. What can we feed her?” I asked. We had some dog food in the house but no cat food.

“We can ask next door,” my daughter said. “They have a cat.”

“Good idea!”

Our neighbor was generous but the kitten couldn’t eat any of the dry cat food.

“Maybe she’s too young. What else can we try? She has to eat something before tomorrow.” I said.

“What about tuna fish?” my son asked.

“Sure, we could try,” my husband replied. He went inside, and returned a moment later with a small dish of tuna.

As soon as the kitten smelled it, she attacked it like she hadn’t eaten in days. Mostly likely, she hadn’t.

Just like I feed you what you can handle.

Over the next week, her health improved dramatically as we applied the medicine the vet had given us. She didn’t like it and fought us at times, but we knew it was necessary if she was going to return to full health.

Just like how you are healing as I work in you, even if you resist at times.

After a month, you couldn’t tell that she had ever been sick. Cassi was healthy in every way, and had became my daughter’s best friend!

Just like you,  My friend!

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