Memos to myself embarrassed by failure


Missed Part I? Get it here.

  1. Remember the mourning. Looking at Scripture, it seems God sometimes simply asks for us to witness what is not right in this world, and to participate with Him in lament. Maybe you’re flirting with failure in part because of someone’s hard-heartedness; because the forces in this world were stronger. I wonder if sometimes we’re not just given a glimpse into why this place is temporary; why it is passing away; why this place and this body and this fallen version of me is not forever. Sometimes failure, I think, can shape a mental sticky note to me: You are not, Janel. But He is. When you mourn with God, you are blessed. And you will be comforted.


  1. Remember how many great things begin as seeds. When I happily crack open the soil to plant new perennials, I am reminded of God’s script for most of nature: Just wait. As I watch my still-runty gardenia from the window, I recall the gardening handbook credo: first year, sleep; second year, creep; third year, leap. (Often, I earmark a project “failed” that’s only in its “sleep” phase. I mis-christen waiting as failure.) Somehow my microwaved, instant-access, 75 mph world has transformed my notions of success, shoving aside this world of seeds and seasons and imperceptible growth.


As I mentioned in this post—a couple of friends reminded me, What if we redefine success to mean “faithfulness”? Sure, God wants us to get excited about results, too. He’s designed purpose for us. But don’t forget the “fruit”, in His eyes, starts long before what we see.


3. Remember the promise. Hope, joy, and peace I’m looking to gain from my dreams is ill-placed. Failure sometimes exposes places I’ve been looking to which can only be truly filled by God. Tim Keller writes,

I think…most of us aren’t able to recognize our soul-thirst for what it is. As long as you think there is a pretty good chance that you will achieve some of your dreams, as long as you think you have a shot at success, you experience your inner emptiness as “drive” and your anxiety as “hope”…

Most of us keep telling ourselves that the reason we remain unfulfilled is because we simply haven’t been able to achieve our goals.

Our desires for lasting fulfillment and significance—for real, unvarnished glory—are twisted into our DNA by God. Yet my best investments are in the unseen, in doing what He says even when I don’t get the why or the how or the when. Think Jesus’ words: My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me. This quote from C.S. Lewis changed my life:

Nothing can eliminate from the parable the divine accolade, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

…. The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. And surely … the promise of glory … becomes highly relevant to our deep desire. For glory meant good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgment, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.  (emphasis added)

Here, crouching in the waiting or the failure or whatever this is, I hang my hat on that accolade that’s the one I’ve craved all my life. It’s the one that carves my identity.

Or should, I think.

I want to learn from you. What have your failures taught you? 


Like this? You might like

If you like it, please share it! (And consider subscribing up there in the right hand corner.)