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Free to Fail

By: Candy Tolbert

I am a people watcher. Airports, malls, a grocery store line, usually find me curiously checking out the faces of women as they pass. A business woman with slumped shoulders frantic because of a missed connection; a mother with a small child rushing to pick up last minute groceries; a middle age woman leisurely strolling while she window shops. I watch them. Their eyes tell a story. And as I watch I wonder how many of them feel insecure, inadequate, and hopeless because of past disappointments and failures?

American writer, Madeline Engle wrote "If I'm not free to fail, I'm not free to take risks, and everything in life that's worth doing involves a willingness to take a risk and involves the risk of failure ... I have to try, but I do not have to succeed."

God's Word is rich in matters of the heart and two familiar verses that I find encouraging when I am tempted to camp on my mistakes are Philippians 3:13,14.

"But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

The operative word here is forgetting. I sometimes wish our minds were like a chalkboard on which the slate of life can be wiped clean by a wet sponge. But that is not the case and despite our best efforts to forget, we nevertheless remember and replay harsh words, broken relationships, and wrong choices over and over.

How do we obey Paul's injunction to forget so that we can move on with fresh perspective and vision, so that we may confidently esteem our worth and express our faith. Here are some suggestions:

I. Let your past be your friend instead of your enemy. Rather than harboring bitterness and regret, consciously list all the things for which you can be grateful - remembering as you do the scriptural admonition to be grateful in "all things" not just the good things, but the way the Lord is sustaining through the hard stuff as well.

II. Repent where you should. We drag yesterday's sins and failures right along with us month after month, year after year unless we ask the Lord's forgiveness (and the forgiveness of those we have wronged).

III. Forgive. Who wronged you yesterday, last week, last year? What unfairness did you experience? Rather than nursing that grievance, become intentional about extending the same grace that God extended to you.

IV. Learn from the past. In telling us to forget the past, Paul is not encouraging blank minds. He's telling us not to live in the past. Someone said, "There's nothing to be learned in the second kick of a mule." Avoid past pitfalls you have stumbled into in the past.

V. Lean forward into the future. Paul uses the analogy of a runner. You don't win a race by constantly looking back. Lean forward and keep your eye on the finish line.

First Timothy sums it up. "Pursue a righteous life - a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to" (1 Timothy 6:11, 12, The Message).

Maybe I'll pass you in the airport or a mall or on the street someday. You will smile at me and I will smile back - a wonderful expression of whose we are and the future that lies ahead!

In the words of Irish missionary to India, Amy Carmichael, "God delights to meet the faith of one who looks up to Him and says, ‘Lord, You know that I cannot do this - but I believe that You can!'"


Authors: Candy Tolbert