You could call me a successful person. I'm a hard worker, I get good grades, and I don't fail tests. Actually, I don't really fail much.
So while failing your first driving test may not seem like a big deal to you, to me it was crushing. It was a week before my birthday, a month ago. Though I was nervous, I was desperately confident. When I backed into that spot at the DMV, clicked on the parking brake, and turned to my instructor with bright eyes and an expectant smile, I was ready for success. I was ready to hear, "You passed."
I didn't hear that. Instead I heard, "I can't pass you today." Failure
. Instant and bitter and cold and unexpected. My stomach dropped and with a slightly trembling lower lip, I stepped back inside and told Mom. She could read it in my eyes before I said anything. I failed.
Since that test, I've learned a lot about failure. Both my parents and I refused to let this failure be wasted. It was a learning opportunity. Now as I look back, there was a lot I learned from failure. And here are a few things:
Failure is only failure if you don't learn from it.
It sounds cliche and trite and perfect for a Pinterest inspirational quote board, but it's true. Everything God gives us is because He knows that it is best for us. Everything is for our good. And He expects us to give Him the glory and to become more sanctified through our experiences. Failure is a growing experience. Failure is a sanctifying experience. It should make us better Christians.
Failure exposes pride.
Jon Bloom said that pride is the pathological core of all of our sin, and nothing reveals the crippling pride in my heart like failure. Why was I so disappointed that I failed my road test? It's just a road test. The answer is wrapped up within my own pride. I wanted to pass for my own glory and good. Coming away from that failure, I felt my sin exposed nakedly before me. I am proud. This truth was stapled to my failure. If I had passed, I would never have realized the depths of my sin. Failure, meanwhile, was used by the Spirit to expose my sin blackly before me and convict me and lead me to repentance.
Failure makes me a more realistic person.
Being someone who's rather alien to the concept of failure, the "real world" is going to seem pretty bleak if I don't at least have some experience with failure. Success will not be guaranteed solely by hard work. More failure is going to come - worse failure than road tests. And if I don't know how to deal with it, it will destroy me.
Failure makes me work harder.
My road test instructor gave me a checklist of reasons why I failed. I memorized that list and I learned from it. I worked harder. I pushed for success. Just because I know failure might come, it doesn't mean that I ever stop doing my best and trying my hardest. And failure just means I have to work harder than before.
Failure is not the end of the world as I know it.
So I've been known to be a bit of a dramatic soul. I feel things very deeply and sometimes respond to disappointment irrationally. I felt devastated after my failure. It took some tough love from Mom to get me to look at things more objectively. Because no matter how I feel, failure is not the end of my world. Failure is only a negative experience if you let it be. If you let feelings dictate what you think, you'll find your failure wasted.
Failure makes success sweeter.
And the happy ending to my failure story is that yesterday, success came. I passed my road test and my new license sleeps happily in my wallet. There is no way that I could have possibly felt this good about passing if I had not failed my first test. Failure makes victory so much richer and more meaningful. I can look back on my first failure and smile. Sure, it still stings, but its sting just reminds me that I have to learn from it and refuse to waste it.
Nobody wants failure. I don't. But regardless of what we'd like, it's going to come and we're going to have to deal with it. We can waste it. We can sin because of it. We can let it destroy us. Or we can use it for our good and the glory of God. We can learn from it. We can become better people because of it. We can let it teach us.