Christian Living

Failing well

I recently started working through Lysa Terkeurst’s Bible study “The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands.” I’m really enjoying it!! I definitely needed to hear the importance of prioritizing this week.

In session 3, she talks about the difference between an error and an end: “An error is an unintentional mistake; an end is a termination,” (p. 89). She was talking about how fear of stepping out of God’s will can paralyze us. We get stuck in the belief that failure means an end–a mistake from which there’s no recovery, no way to fix the mistake. I have to admit that’s my tendency. I think it comes from having had situations where relationships ended no matter what I tried.

But errors are unintentional mistakes that God redeems. If we’re trying to follow God and we don’t do it perfectly (who does?!), God is able to redeem that error into something beautiful. He can use it to change our lives for the better and to change others’ lives for the better.

I’m reminded of the net under tightrope walkers. If they make a mistake, the net is there to catch them, to keep them safe. And then they can try again. There’s a freedom in knowing one doesn’t have to be perfect.

It’s like Carol Dweck talks about with a “growth mindset.” A growth mindset is one where you believe your brain can become smarter, you can learn new skills. You make mistakes because you know that it creates new neural pathways in your brain, allowing you to come closer to attaining your goal.

We’ve been talking about surrender all week on our podcast, Epic Every Day, and how it takes guts to surrender to God. It’s not easy. Mistakes are a place where surrender comes in handy. It brings God’s redemption into play.

And it aligns us with what’s already true–we can’t make any situation (mistake or not) come out right, regardless of how hard we try. I often hold myself to the standard of making things come out the way I think they should, but it’s a ridiculous standard. I am as incapable of directing circumstances as I am of directing the wind.

Obviously, that isn’t to say that our actions don’t matter. They do–they matter more than we can understand. We don’t have time to waste on getting caught up in inanities, in the busyness of life. We have to do the things God has called us to do. We have to apply the CSC’s (being calm, surrendered, centered, connected, & complete) or we’ll miss out on freedom and abundance and peace. Those things are worth fighting for–at least for me.

Lysa references Proverbs 3:5-6 and argues that the opposite of trusting God is trying to figure everything out on our own. She has three different spectrums as a measure of where one is at with trusting God: what degree thought about the situation, what degree you’ve prayed about the situation, what degree you’ve entrusted the outcome of the situation to God.

As I was placing myself on those spectrums, it was definitely convicting. I often pray because I’m trying to convince God to work in my situation, rather than praying out of trust. Or I’ll get stuck trying to piece together every possible scenario and what the best thing to do about each of them is and forget to pray.

That’s not who I want to be. I want to be someone who makes mistakes well because I am learning and growing and because I believe God can redeem them, rather than someone who avoids acting out of the fear of making mistakes.

So what about you? How do you handle mistakes?

Failing Well

Christian Living

Why you should embrace “not yet”

As I mentioned last week, my phone died. Yesterday, the new phone we got arrived. It’s an iPhone 5. We decided to go with an iPhone so I can (theoretically) sync my novel and work on it both places. Frankly, the transition has been painful. I’ve already been cranky and feeling like progress is stalled in several areas of my life. It hasn’t helped to feel like I’m back to phone usage 101. I miss my android system! I miss the familiarity of it. I miss having free apps that do what I want them to do.

Been doing lots of whining, in case you couldn’t tell.

Today, I watched this video. It’s a TED talk by Carol Dweck, and in it, she talks about how children handle challenge. It was actually quite fascinating and exactly what I needed to hear. Sometimes I get so frustrated by the minute progress I see on my goals. I want to reach them now! Or at least to see significant progress, rather than 1% improvement every day. But life is about the 1%. If we really made 1% improvement every day, we’d arrive in 100 days. Better to be the turtle than the hare. But I digress.

TED talk. Children can be taught to handle challenge one of two ways. Carol Dweck used a math test to study this behavior. The first way is to see their failure at the test as a failure of themselves–they didn’t do well enough. They couldn’t do well enough. It engenders frustration and ultimately, despair.

The second way is to see their failure as a “not yet”–they haven’t learned enough to pass the test yet.¬†Teachers who started giving their students the grade of “not yet” saw a huge upswing in their students’ scores. Telling your students/children/self that you haven’t gotten there yet reframes challenge as opportunity. It empowers you to study more or read the documentation for your crazy iOS system that isn’t working the way it should or whatever it is that you need to do to succeed. It creates a mindset where success is possible. And it helps your brain grow so you’re more able to handle the next challenge.

This morning, JB Glossinger, told Zig Ziglar’s “How to Train a Flea” story on his Morning Coach podcast. Basically, you put the flea in a jar with the lid on. The flea will always try to jump out. After some time, it learns not to hit the lid and begins to moderate its jumps. When you take the lid off, the flea continues moderating its jumps and will never escape.

Way too often, that is me. I don’t know if it’s a personality thing or how I was raised (or some combination) but I learned early in life to never do something outside of my competencies. Certain things I wasn’t automatically good at and so I would try them once (or not at all) and then not do them again. I didn’t get that “not yet” mindset.

As an adult, I’ve had to catch myself when I fall into fatalism. It’s easy to get stressed and overwhelmed in our crazy, busy society. But there’s always hope because we have a God who redeems everything. And if any religion has a reason to embrace “not yet,” it’s Christianity with our God who is always working our best and a future hope of eternal life with Jesus.

So! I challenge us to stop any time we hear those failure messages and reframe them as “not yet.” I haven’t mastered my phone or designing webpages or writing fiction or podcasting or parenting or teaching or being healthy¬†yet.¬†How about you? What haven’t you done yet?