Flirting with failure

As the sun was setting, I walked briskly toward the bus station after a tiring day at work. I knew from experience that the city bus didn’t come by that often, and I didn’t want to miss it.

A teenager sporting fashionable Oakley sunglasses, a plush black suit, and a haircut with designed grooves shaved into the sides above his ears stood in front of the mini-supermarket. His glasses and stance could have passed for someone applying for a position of private bodyguard.

I chuckled at this sight, but it also reminded me of an incident that happened to me as a teenager. My buddies and I were hanging out in our neighborhood when a friend of ours sped by on his new scooter, only to suddenly stop and swerve in our direction. I was in awe of how cool he was. His walk, his talk, even his clothes and gelled hair set our group’s fashion trends.

“Wanna take it for a spin?” he asked me, his tone making me feel like “one of the bros.” As he leaned the motorcycle toward me, I remember thinking that it didn’t matter that I had no experience in riding one. I could only think about how awesome it would feel to race off into the sunset, with movie credits rolling down the screen to a beat-heavy song, with incredible guitar riffs. On my return, my friends would say, “Nice spin!” as the wheels stopped only inches away from the impact.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way things played out. I revved up the motorcycle, and before I knew it, the bike and I had shot across to the other side of the street and into a parked car. Of course, my friends were stunned and horrified rather than impressed, and as I watched an oil puddle form at my feet, I felt like a freshly pricked balloon—completely deflated.

The first thing I did after getting home was drag myself to my room and collapse in bed, fully clothed. I slept this accident off for a whole day. Nothing could make me feel better.

A decade after this humiliation, I met with another unfortunate incident. One dreadful morning …

Boy, those kids sure are loud! I thought, as I navigated the turns on a mountain road. The laughing in the back seat grew louder, and I became more irritated. I really should say something! Then I heard one of the children shout, “I’m going to throw this out the window!”

I instinctively turned my head backwards, and in that split second, I heard the sound of crunching metal and plastic. There’d been someone in the incoming lane, and of course, I’d swerved right in front of them.

It’s a strange thing about car accidents. No eerie warning music starts to play. There’s no flashing lights or dark smoke. All you hear is “Crash!”

In the police station, I sat face to face with a young officer who took down the car accident sequence, asking for my verbal confirmation after each sentence. The driver whose car I’d hit sat next to me the whole time, staring and nodding.

Then another policewoman took my photo to confirm that the driver was actually me. I hadn’t had time to straighten my shirt or wipe off my despondent look. Not exactly a Kodak moment!

I remembered having paid for comprehensive coverage for my car, so that kept me from panicking right there in the police station. But later, when I spoke with the insurance company on the phone, it turned out that they would only cover part of the expense. We were on the hook for $600! On top of it, we were in the middle of moving houses! Needless to say, I felt as low as I ever had.

As I lay in bed that night, the all-too-familiar sickening feeling settled deep in my stomach. I hid from the world under my covers and just wanted to sleep. Something, though, about this car accident was different from the crash of my teens. This time I had the comfort of a dear wife and a close relationship with a Friend who has never left me alone.

“Do you want me to pray for you?” my wife gently whispered. I nodded in agreement.

As she prayed, relief and comfort flooded my downcast heart. My stomach began to feel much better as well.

I was reminded of King David in the Bible, who must have felt pretty low after some serious collisions in his personal and public life. His scandalous “wife nabbing” must have been humiliating.1 Guilt and discouragement must have also plagued him over the lack of control that he had over his adored, yet unruly, sons Absalom and Adonijah.2 I can’t imagine the criticism and blame that he must have received when God judged the entire nation because of his sin.3

And yet it was these very same failures—not the giant slaying or the Philistine slaughtering—that taught David the humbling, yet liberating truth: what a mess we all are without God.

He once gratefully confessed, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”4

It’s like a quote I once memorized that has encouraged me after a few of my fumbles. “Confessing to ourselves continually what a mess we are helps us to avoid that spirit of pride which causes us to criticize and condemn others.”

Jesus made you just the way you are, mistakes and all, and He loves you just the same!

He once encouraged the apostle Paul by telling him, “My grace is all you need. Only when you are weak can everything be done completely by my power.”5

So if you find yourself flirting with failure, don’t be dismayed! There is a Friend who will never leave you, who’ll help you resist the sirens of discouragement and despair and bring you to the haven of His comfort, acceptance, and forgiveness.

  1. See 2 Samuel 11.
  2. See 2 Samuel 15; 1 Kings 1.
  3. See 2 Samuel 24.
  4. Psalm 34:18 NIV
  5. 2 Corinthians 12:9 ERV