Not long ago, my son John came home ecstatic about some prizes he had earned at school. One of his favorites was a bouncy ball that he bounced on our floors and on the ceiling. His sister was jumping off the walls in sync with it.
“John, take that outside please,” I told him as I desperately wanted some peace and quiet.
He opened the door and ran outside and within three minutes, he yelled my name.
“Mom! You shouldn’t have told me to go outside! I bounced the ball and now it’s lost.”
Oh boy. There goes my quiet time.
I walked outside to help him look for it and it’s nowhere to be found.
“I’m sorry John.”
“It’s your fault. You told me to go outside!” he says on the verge of tears.
I reason with him and share how he’s still responsible for the ball. We talked more about it and I let it go, but something inside me still felt like I failed him and didn’t suggest the best solution for play.
My feelings toward his lost bouncy ball reminded me of how I often feel in motherhood. Am I failing at this? I never feel like I quite have it down and as soon as I do, some other struggle and difficulty surfaces.
In her honest article, “My Pact to Become Good at Failure,” Mandy Arioto says,
“In a sense, motherhood offered me new eyes to see that failure can be the thing that saves us. This is what I’ve come to believe about failure: it’s good. Just like childbirth is good. And by good I mean incredibly painful. Failure hurts, but there is tremendous potential for goodness to be born through it. (Hello, Darling MOPS Magazine Spring Issue, pg. 29).
I think she is right on. For so many years, I have looked at failure as a really bad thing. Could it be though, that failure can be turned into a good and godly thing?
When a deeply invested friendship hasn’t turned out the way I thought, I’ve felt like a failure. When I can’t seem to balance all the needs of my children and love my husband well, I’ve felt like a failure. When I lash out and say words I would’ve never imagined saying to those I love, I’ve felt like a failure. When dinner is not what anyone wants to eat, yep… failure.
And then there are situations and circumstances in the past that haunt my heart today in light of failure: A hurtful word, an unacceptable grade, the inability to do what was expected, a relationship that didn’t reach its potential, and more.
Regardless of the sin I’ve committed and the sin that’s been done to me, God still uses failure and all the pain and suffering attached to it. Maybe we don’t see the purposes now — that’s okay. What we must remember is that God loves us in the midst of our deepest failures.
There is never a time when He is shaking his fists and yelling at us to get our act together; rather His arms are outstretched like a father to his child. He tells us to, “Come.” He accepts us by grace through faith, not by any good works we have done. Even on our best day, we still fall short. That’s why we need Him.
I will fail again, but I am not defined by my failures because God redeems them. He forgives. He is gracious. He is patient. And pain, while it is so difficult, can be a wonderful tool for growth and change and Christ-likeness. If I gave myself permission to fail, and let God pick up the broken pieces for me, I’m pretty sure I would start to see things with a fresh pair of lenses where grace saturates the world around me. It is a daily battle to rely on these truths, but it’s possible.
Well, the bouncy ball incident wasn’t talked about for a few hours that day until John stormed into the house and yelled: “Mom! I found the ball. It was in front of the slide!” He threw his arms around my waist and almost knocked me down, to which I translated: Mom, you’re still the best!