“Whether we’re on the path toward victory or defeat is determined by the very next choice we make. Not the choices from yesterday. Not the choices five minutes ago.”
― Lysa TerKeurst,
I have not exactly been one of those people who have the ‘push through’ attitude. I have historically been more of the type who gives up or even worse than that, I have often been too afraid to try things. Do you know if you don’t try you can’t fail? That’s why I haven’t failed a lot in life 🙂 The really awesome thing is that you can always live with the idea that if you did actually attempt something, you would be a wild success at whatever you try. I know it’s juevenile, but it’s much easier, at least for awhile, to live by the motto “If you don’t try, you can’t fail.” When you live like this, you find that you are actually packed tightly into a box and missing dimension in your life. This kind of approach causes a whole myriad of missed opportunities, relationships and experiences. The little box that holds you gets tighter and tighter.
It’s really a problem for me and the thing that has helped me see this more than anything else is having kids who are getting into their middle school and highschool years. I see some of them hit an obstacle and when it looks a little formidable or daunting, they want to retreat. I can so relate to that, but I really don’t want that to be their approach to life. I am noticing that the little pep talks we have with them are for me as well. I often ask them, “In five years, (or one or two) would you wish you said, ‘Yes’ to this or ‘No’.” So many times, our emotions and fears are saying, “No,” but our heart is saying, “Yes.” Emotions and fears can just speak so much louder sometimes. It’s not that I never try anything at all. There are many things that I’ve stepped out in and been so glad I have, but in all those situations it did take a great deal of effort for me to step around my insecurities. My automatic response just seems to be to step back rather than step forward. John is the opposite – he jumps headlong into all kinds of things. Being a little older, I am realizing that if the ‘somedays’ are never acted on, they become the ‘should haves’ of our life. I would rather have very few ‘should haves’ when I get to the end of things.
We can all look back at times in our lives where we have tried something and really it turns out more like a ‘shouldn’t have’ instead of ‘I’m so glad I did.’ My most embarrassing failure of my life – yes, it is so bad that I really do think it is the most humiliating moment of my whole life – has been buried for years. It was kind of equivalent to those dreams you have where you’re out in public and not dressed. I actually just told my husband a month ago and we’ve been married for over 15 years. We talk about everything, but I kept that memory tucked safely as far away as possible. Anyway, I took piano for many many years and could play really well. I wasn’t good at a million things like some multi-talented people are, but piano was ‘my thing.’ Well, our church youth group always had a really good band and was going to be short a keyboard player for worship on a retreat. I was in college at that point and my brothers told the youth pastor that I could play really well, so they asked me to fill in. I agreed and started practicing. and practicing. and practicing. and practicing. and I realized I could.not.chord. I’d only done classical piano. At this point, I was kind of stuck. Someone helped me a bit and gave me a few pointers, but I had never played with a band and I only had a week to prepare. The day came for the retreat and we had the first rehearsal. I felt like a two year old hitting random keys playing along with a track or something. I suspect that is what it sounded like. It was really bad, but I was hoping it only sounded worse to me than everyone else. Apparently that hope wasn’t reality. Worship went
well that night and then they decided to CANCEL worship for the altar call as well as the next day for the second half of the retreat. If you know anything about a church retreat, the music part is a pretty big part and they CANCELLED. I could have died – really. This wasn’t a small little fail, it was pretty spectacular. Now to be fair, they never TOLD me that was the reason, but it was pretty clear since I was the only one struggling through the set. The faces spoke a lot that didn’t need to be said also. An elephant came marching into that room and the nicest thing for everyone was to cancel worship. Not many people can say that they were the cause of worship being cancelled for 100 or more people. That was about the day I lost the resolve to keep playing. That was the day I truly failed because I quit. It could have been a step on a ladder of experience but instead I fell into the pit of disappointment. Instead of fighting through, I sacrificed a dream on the altar of shame. You see, I had always wanted to play worship and probably could have learned – actually, I’m sure I could have learned, but I ran. I agreed with the failure instead of learning from it. Instead of, “Wow! I failed pretty spectacularly at that,” (that was true and others rightfully agreed with me) I said, “I am a failure and I guess I can’t play.” I could have asked someone to teach me, or spent time learning on my own, but instead I walked away. The ministry school I went to later that year even had a worship track to teach students to lead worship and for a fleeting moment I thought I should sign up, but instead decided not to. Afterall, I had decided that I couldn’t play and I certainly wasn’t in a hurry to get back on a stage of any sort ever again – especially with me and a piano in close proximity.
I am finding that there are all sorts of things I have wanted to try that I have packed away. Things that I know that God has put in me because I keep thinking about them. Some of the things are just fun hobbies that I would like to learn to do. Others dreams are bigger than hobbies. Sometimes though(well a lot of times) God uses the things we enjoy for much bigger purposes than we could imagine. It’s not that I will find room for all of these things in my life, but certainly I can make room for some of them. The ones that God put there, I definitely don’t want to run from because He can see much more clearly than I can. Obviously, different seasons are more conducive to picking up a hobby or doing something new than others. For example, arm knitting (something I am learning and really enjoying right now) is not a good hobby in toddler or baby season. You can’t really put it down once you start and your arms are rather confined for the duration of the project. The toddler would probably really enjoy it, but I wouldn’t recommend it. In toddler and baby stage, you need to be able to move quickly and at a moment’s notice. Arm knitting and toddlers combined could equal a news story. ‘Toddler runs away while arm knitting mom tries to untangle herself.’
Having said that, I do want to be more of a ‘yes’ person when it comes to trying new things or stepping out into the unknown. I want to be like my late Grandma in this way. She took tap dance at seventy and would dance away with me in her basement. Why not? She wasn’t afraid to try new things even later in life. What if we started saying, ‘yes’ and stepping around our fears? Can you imagine if every person acted on the talents, abilities as well as dreams that God has created them with? How amazing that would be! Through those dreams, people are helped, lives are healed, brokenness is restored, there is more beauty on this earth, more things are learned, more songs are sung, more things are invented and the list goes on and on and on. You see, these things aren’t just about us, but are meant to be shared. Think of what would be missing on both a small and grand scale if some had not stepped forward? What if everyone had always stepped back in the face of failure or fear?
God has created each of us with talents, abilities and gifts that reflect who He is and reflect how He created us individually. Psalm 139:14 says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. This doesn’t just mean physically, but also the way we are wired and the things that make us unique. There are things that each of us can do well that many others cannot. Let’s step forward and not shrink back with the choices we make. Even if our choices in the past have confined us, let’s not let them define us. What has God put in you? What makes you come alive? What is something you would love to do? More importantly, is there something God is asking you to step out in and you are too afraid? What season are you in? Are the things you’re thinking of for now or for later? Everything needs to come in its season. God knows what He’s put there and also what season we’re in. He is the Master Orchestrator of our lives. Let’s ask Him what is important for our life in this season and make the choice to move forward in that.
Once again “Whether we’re on the path toward victory or defeat is determined by the very next choice we make. Not the choices from yesterday. Not the choices five minutes ago.”
― Lysa TerKeurst,