What failure do you keep replaying in your mind? The moment you wish you never experienced. The words that got away from you. The decision you would want to have back. When you consider this episode of failing, the gnawing feeling takes over to stall you or pushes you towards perfection.

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You may have seen the Michigan-Michigan State football game on Saturday night. Blake O’Neill fumbled a punt with ten seconds to go. Michigan State not only recovered the football but returned it for a game-winning touchdown. His failure visible to millions of people and will probably make the top lists of game endings.

In watching this moment and thinking about O’Neill, I ask myself and you this question; what failure defines, debilitates, and follows you?

I found myself talking about one of my most painful failures to my wife this weekend. As we rode in the car to Letchworth State Park, I divulged to her how I still replay the episode after the years of the occurrence. Receiving grace in the midst of failure is like forgiving someone, developing patience, and replacing worry with trust; it’s a process.

John Ortberg speaks of the “cave of failure” in his book If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat:

The cave (of failure) is where God does some of his best work in molding and shaping human lives. Sometimes, when all the props and crutches in your life get stripped away and you find you have only God, you discover that God is enough. Sometimes, when your worst fears of inadequacy are confirmed and you discover that you really are out of your league, you experience the liberation of realizing that it is okay to be inadequate and that God wants his power to flow to flow through your weakness. (pg. 139)

Dealing with failure in our lives means facing the fear and shame. Not in terms of overcompensating, but receiving God’s grace. Inadequacy becomes a gift. Following Jesus never includes us puffing up our chests in strength. On the contrary, weakness brings us a closing to knowing Jesus and closer to each other.

O’Neill will face his failure today and every time he sees that replay. Just like us, he will face the encouragement of his family coupled with the harsh words of critics. I still replay my failure and am finding how the grace of God challenges my inner desire to perform and insecurity.

What about your failure? How will you face the lingering fear and shame from it?
It might start with acknowledging it to God and asking him for grace.
It might mean sharing it with a close friend who will provide you with grace and truth.
It might look like you accepting your inadequacy as opposed to pursuing perfection.
It might mean taking a step of action rather than freezing from fear.
It might challenge you to replace the lies you believe to the truth of God’s grace.

May the grace of God move you from replaying your failure towards receiving his love and acceptance based on the Gospel.

Photo credit to Laura Lee Moreau.