Let Go of Failure! Move forward! Live boldly!

“What do you mean?” My voice quivered that morning and I’m sure my eyes had that deer in the headlights look. The customer service agent was patient as she explained once again. “You booked your flight for 9PM instead of 9AM.” Again, I just stared at her. Mistakes like this don’t happen to me. I’m careful, I’m cautious and I double check everything. Then I remembered – that night I spent hours searching for a low airfare. When this one popped up on my computer screen, its low price entranced me and I booked it. In my haste, I didn’t check the actual departure time.

A line of impatient customers formed in back of me while I held back tears. Fortunately, the customer service agent offered me a solution. She would check my luggage and put me on the wait list for the next flight. A glimmer of hope, which was immediately dashed when she said, “This is a popular destination. Most of today’s flights are overbooked. You still might not get out until 9PM. Good luck.”

Walking towards my gate, a torrent of tears flooded my face. I felt utterly defeated, stupid and shamed. I failed. Disgrace poked holes in my confidence. My tears grew stronger. How did I let this happen? How would I explain my failure to my friends who were expecting me at noon and not midnight?

Entering the waiting area, a torrent of wetness flowed down my face. I heard God whisper, “Let it go! Give it to me.” My heart answered, “I can’t, Lord. I’m trying to, but I can’t release my failure.” For a few minutes, I wrestled with God. I was so deeply engrossed in telling God how I couldn’t surrender this fiasco to him, I almost missed the gate agent calling my name over the intercom. Moments later, with a boarding pass in hand, I was still berating myself for this misstep. Yet the tears had subsided and I understood more fully why God was telling me to liberate my inadequacies.

This side of heaven, we will never have total victory, but we will have some. Each and every day, God is transforming you, changing you, remaking you in his image. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

My bigger mistake was not handing my failure over to the God who loved me enough to say “let it go.” In that airport, instead of crying, I should have handed my broken scars back to my heavenly Father. Let go of my insecurity and taken hold of my true identity as a child of God. Let go of my shame – of the feeling no one would love me just the way I am – and taken hold of the grace God was offering me.

When victory, even a small one like this, becomes yours, celebrate them! Don’t miss them as I almost did that day beating myself up for my failure. Seize the victories. Rejoice! Move forward and off of those self-deprecating thoughts. Don’t let failure overcome your heart – celebrate the times when victory is yours!

Celebrate the times when life hands you victory out of defeat.

Celebrate when you didn’t answer a curt word with one of your own.

Celebrate when you forgot the milk at the grocery store and didn’t call yourself a failure.

Celebrate when you didn’t yell at your kids or your husband for leaving their stuff cluttering the living room.

Celebrate the time taken just for you to gain perspective on the day rather than enter it feeling defeated, dragged down and disgusted.

Live boldly knowing God honors your progress and offers grace for the times you fall short.

Stop feeling you’re not good enough, not smart enough, not lucky enough, or just not enough, period. Let go of the feelings that sabotage your confidence, move forward into the arms of God and live courageously knowing God has taken hold of you. Then boldly celebrate all the small victories in your life.

Last One On

She was the last person who boarded the airplane. I remember this distinctly because on this particular flight, for some unknown reason, I scored an upgrade. Despite this stroke of luck, I greedily eyed the empty seat next to me thinking: It would be nice to have that extra space on this long haul.

One look at this final passenger and anyone could see she was carrying the weight of the world. About 80, her eyes downcast, her gait stilted, her carriage displayed grief, disappointment and resignation. Melancholy permeated her, but I couldn’t determine if the sadness was recent or life-long. In my quick glance, my mind was made up. I didn’t want her sitting next to me. Yes, that was me at my Christian best praying, Please God, let her seat be in the back of the plane. This could be a great flight without anyone sitting next to me.

My weak smile greeted her as she stopped in the aisle by my seat. A flight attendant put her carryon in the overhead bin. I managed to keep smiling as I got up to allow her ample access to her seat. Inside, I was burning. Why, God, why? Could I just once have the seat next to me empty?

When she finally sat down, the seat swallowed her. Her skin color matched the gray of the seat covering and without the red blazer she wore, she would have completed disappeared from sight.

I was still smiling when I grabbed my seat belt and fastened it low and tight across my waist – as the flight attendants suggest. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed her watching me. Her hands shook slightly as she grabbed her own seat belt and attempted to copy my movements. I turned, still smiling like a stupid circus clown, looking at her face-to-face during her several spastic tries to complete a process that took me seconds.

That’s when I heard God answering my selfish prayer. Talk to her! His words practically boomed in my ears. She needs someone to talk to her.

I might have still had that silly grin on my face when I answered. No God, I don’t want to talk. I want to relax. I want to sleep. I want to forget the pressures of this business trip. Why are you asking me this?

I was in the midst this, when I turned to her and asked her, “Is Chicago your final destination or are you connecting elsewhere?”

She told me she was flying to Chicago to bury her son. She had never been on an airplane before, never navigated an airport concourse, never submitted to the vulgarities of airport security. Through her grief, she accomplished this because of a deep desire to be beside her son’s family when they laid him in the ground.

That’s when I knew. God didn’t want to answer my selfish prayers. His desire was for me to answer someone else’s prayers. Luck didn’t get me this upgrade. It was God who orchestrated the change so one of his children could help another who desperately needed comfort. How stupid I had been. How selfish! God had redeemed my self-centered prayers to be a blessing to someone else.

“Then there is something you should probably know.” Was I still smiling or had I switched into business presentation mode? Unsure, I mixed comfort in my voice. “This particular airport has noise-abatement controls. The take off is different than most. When the airplane is at the end of the runway, the pilot will rev the engines. While they are at full power, he will release the brake, causing the plane to jolt down the runway. Once it lifts off, the pilot will put the plane in a steep ascent, eventually cutting back on the engines. After all that speed, it almost feels like the engines aren’t working.”

I shouldn’t have said all that. She didn’t even know what a normal takeoff felt like. The terror in her eyes signaled I was making matters worse. I thought her fear would boil over into screams. Too much information, I scolded myself. So, I just gently laid my hand across hers and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll be with you.”

Once we were airborne, she turned to me. “Thanks for letting me know that. I would have been terrified when all that happened.” Now she was the one smiling – barely noticeable, soft and sweet.

For the next five hours, over complimentary peanuts and soda, we talked. Mostly she spoke; I listened. Her life was fascinating. Her marriage had been long, full of love and produced two children. They struggled through things that were history to me: the effects of the Great Depression, World War II, the first Super Bowl. Then she reached things I remembered: the moon landing, the US hockey team winning the gold medal over the Soviet Union at the Lake Placid Olympics, Princess Diana’s wedding. This wasn’t a history talk. The news provided the backdrop to committed love: birthday parties, graduations, happy marriages, births of grandchildren and great grandchildren. The melancholy once permeating her was replaced by good memories, by virtue, by love.

It seemed only five minutes later when the seatbelt sign dinged on and the roar of the engines grew louder in preparation for our descent. “Thank you for sitting next to me,” I said to her.

I didn’t have the strength to tell her throughout our conversation I wondered: What if I learned to pray differently? What if instead of being worried about my comforts, I asked the Lord to help me be kind? What if I prayed not with judgmental eyes, but a heart willing to serve? What if I prayed to be God’s answer to someone instead of waiting for God to answer me?

She placed her hand gently on mine. I smiled back at her…warm, admiring and genuine.

Nothing Else in the World

I never questioned her loyalty until that day. Since the time I purchased her, Lily, my German Shepherd, had developed endearing qualities to proclaim her loyalty. One of my favorites always remains the time she and my husband, Richard, were walking through our neighborhood. Driving past them on my way home from the grocery store, I stopped for a second to call out a hello. With that accomplished, I resumed driving home until in my rearview mirror, I noticed Lily hated my departure. She was pulling my husband up the hill in attempt to catch up with me. In order to prevent Richard from having a heart attack, I stopped and waited until both were in the car.

On that day at the doggie park, Lily wasn’t showing any loyalty. It was her favorite spot on earth, and she did not want to leave. So instead of obeying my command to come, she bolted away. For over 15 minutes, I pleaded with her to obey or at least get close enough for me to grab her collar. She was so disobedient that even went I left her alone in the park, she wouldn’t come to the gate so we could go home.

I sometimes can see myself in Lily’s behavior. I have a tendency to want my own way, to be disloyal to my friends when it suits me. Which isn’t to say I’m a back-stabbing traitor. No, it means sometimes I miss out on the joys of being a reliable friend.

Lily and I have a strong bond, yet she hurt me. I wanted her close by me, to listen to what I said, to enjoy following me. That’s what friends do. You stick close by, you listen to what your friend says, you laugh when they laugh and cry when they cry. Being a loyal friend means your relationship makes you stronger than you would be without it. You love harder, laugh louder, live richer and become more together than you could ever be by yourselves.

This isn’t for the faint of heart, much like trying to train a dog – which I sadly found out that day. Life is full of twists and turns and staying in step with someone else is not easy. We struggle to be vulnerable to another especially when the way we want to go isn’t the same as our friends. We battle with ways of feeling safe, secure and significant with another all the while trying to get our own needs met. We tend to want our hurts to be addressed rather than helping others through theirs. It is so difficult to lay your heart into someone’s hands and say, “I trust you with all of this,” and have that person do the same.

There are times in our friendships when we must heed to the other person’s instructions. Lily lacked the perspective I did. A treat was awaiting her at home, along with her dinner and an evening of warm snuggles. It was time to leave the park to enjoy some of these other delights.

Proverbs 18: 24 tells us, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Friendships never just happen – they are forged. They are knit together by leaning into each other, by staying close, by experiencing life’s bitter and sweet moments together. And it means standing by one another even when disappointment sets in.

I eventually got a leash on Lily and we went home to an enjoyable evening. Despite her unfaithfulness, I remained loyal to her, but I learned to create a fulfilling friendship, sometimes you have to work at it – sometimes you have to chase after it. It’s worth it, because being close to another human being matters like nothing else in the world.