Here is Dave Marshall, training hard. His dream when I knew him was to get into the British Olympic rowing team. We have lost touch now, so I don’t know if he made it. I guess we will soon find out on our TV screens, but if he did I bet he lost a few races on the way there: competition produces many losers and only one winner. As the saying goes, ‘No-one remembers the person who came second’: hard but true.
Here’s another example, closer to home. Sam spends hours ‘practising’ on this sort of computer game, trying to better his score so he can graduate to competing on-line. Look at that concentration on a younger Becca’s face! Its just a game, but the score matters SO much. No point playing if you don’t at least do well and better yourself… Sam spends hours trying to get 100% on all his Guitar Hero songs and won’t give up until he has. He has developed his typing skills against the clock in the same way, aiming for 100 wpm or something crazy. He says its about self-empowerment… and he loves the buzz…
No doubt some personality types are more competitive than others and I have blogged about this before (It’s not a competition!) with the emphasis on how we treat those we ‘compete against’. But how do we treat ourselves when we don’t reach external standards? Or even worse, self-imposed standards? Here is Sam working in Somerfield supermarket in 2006, the only job he has ever held down… and not for very long! That experience has become a byword for failure and humiliation for him – he just wasn’t efficient enough to keep the job, was simply too slow at emptying boxes onto shelves! It had such a negative effect he has never had the confidence to look for any other similar work 😦
But did it have a positive effect too? We talked about it today: what did he learn from that time? He learned what he is good at and what he is not good at and where his boundaries are; through the pain of it he learned a lot about his strengths and weaknesses. It helped him grow another step on the journey of life. Compared to what he is coping with now a short-term weekend job with 6am starts on Sunday mornings is peanuts… bless him.
On Tuesday I said “F is for focus, frugality and fasting” and set my face to some goals for February. I had some standards to achieve and end-points in mind: “I can do this”. But F is also for failure… and Wednesday was not such a good day! Focus was lost and distraction set in; plans had to be altered as I struggled through the day from one thing to another feeling unwell. I was forced to remember: “I can’t do this”.
There is always a balance to find between goals and discipline, making the choices for change, and the reality of our weaknesses, brokenness and utter dependence on God’s grace and strength; it is very easy to swing from one extreme to the other! Its good to work at ‘sowing where we want to go’, but ‘the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit’ (Psalm 51v170)… Of course what we should always say is, “I can do all things – through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4v13) – and by implication that means I cannot do certain things without His strength and to try is a big mistake!
‘No branch can bear fruit by itself, it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me’ John 15v4
I am grateful for the humbling and the Lord’s gift of repentance, so that I can start over again without guilt and with new mercy for today. I have learned yet again through the painful contrast of two adjacent days, what happens if I try to change myself without the Holy Spirit’s help by not walking in step with Him and living out of that life-spring. I can’t guarantee I won’t get distracted again, but for now I am drawn to re-focus on the biggest ‘failure’ of all, through which we have been rescued for all time… Jesus took the way of the cursed cross, laying it all down in order to be raised up. There is no resurrection without death: it is a natural and spiritual principal!
When Martin failed his medical finals in 1982 it was the worst event of his life to date, the greatest knock to his pride, the entry point for fear and self-doubt that had been unknown to the brilliant Oxford and Cambridge prize-winning student (see My Story). A letter he received from a trainee-pastor friend – as a non-Christian at the time, remember – encouraged him about some of the great failures of history: Abraham Lincoln, Churchill and Christ Himself and how they grew and triumphed despite – no because of – their struggles. He has never forgotten that letter, which was so influential in him coming to Jesus in 1983. A number of subsequent ‘failures’ and ‘rejections’ at work have worked out for his good since then! We look to the God who specialises in collecting failures and showing His power in redeeming them, turning them into the opposite of who they naturally are – the One who chooses the weak and foolish things to shame the strong and wise (1 Corinthians 1v27).
It is only my pride that puffs up when I succeed by my own efforts, but it is Jesus who gets the glory when His anointing and love accomplish something impossible for me. That’s how this abandoned, rejected little girl who longed to be loved and always tried SO hard ended up where I am today – surrounded by blessing, favour, love, grace and freedom!
I can’t make anything happen, nor change anything: I am not in control. Thank You Lord that YOU ARE! F is for FLOW with that!