Today’s post is written by Summer Hoover, a guest contributor and invaluable friend. Her insight, humility and openness speak into my life through every conversation we have. I pray that her thoughts here will bless and challenge you today.
“It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of His presence.”
Failure. What comes to mind when you read that word? Do you think of a specific moment? A relationship? A job? A sin in your life? Do you see yourself? Whatever it conjures up, I think we can all agree that the word “failure” is filled with negativity, loss, sadness, hurt, pain, regret, embarrassment, or shame. What would you add to that list?
For me, fear of failure has been a paralyzing, self-loathing force in my life. I have allowed it to control what I do or don’t do, how I respond when I mess up and how I allow those mess-ups to form me, oftentimes with negative effects. When I was around twelve years old, my parents got me a Nike T-shirt which simply said, “Losing teaches you one thing…it sucks.” That pretty much sums up the perspective I had on failure.
However, as much as that statement may resonate, it is misses the mark completely. We can allow failure to push us back, paralyze us, derail us or transform us. Three of these four options are void of God’s redeeming nature and His willingness to turn our mistakes and mess-ups into defining and teachable moments where He is revealed and we are transformed.
Lately, God has been opening doors for me to walk through in pursuit of His call on my life – to lead others to know Christ and show them the way out of captivity. These recent months have been a beautiful whirlwind of ministerial blessings, spiritual transformation, and personal face-to-face encounters with my God.
After so many spiritual “highs” of late, I was excited to celebrate over dinner with ladies from the post-abortive Bible study I’ve had the honor of leading (called Surrendering the Secret). We may have started out as facilitators and group members, but God has grown our relationships into ones without labels or roles – simply sisters in Christ. At dinner, when our server told me they didn’t have Dr Pepper or Mr. Pibb (all kinds of wrong, I know), I opted to have a Peach Bellini from the bar – a rare choice on my part. Despite the food in my system, I started to feel a bit light-headed, not surprising considering my drinks normally consist of water, Dr Pepper and creamer with a bit of coffee.
After dinner, one friend reminded me that another friend at our table had a past addiction to alcohol. Failure.
How could I have forgotten? I knew that. How did that not even cross my mind? How? I don’t even like alcohol that much. How could I have been so careless? I was distraught, wounded by my own sin to my core.
I immediately called this friend and apologized through sobbing tears. She was so gracious, compassionate, and forgiving. I plead for forgiveness. She willingly, without question, offered it. She assured me that she had not felt tempted in the least. A healing stitch. I then cried out to God, praying, crying, apologizing, and receiving His forgiveness. But, the paralyzing, self-loathing response to failure had already begun to take root in me. It has been, after all, my default. Losing teaches you one thing: it sucks. Remember?
All those amazing “God moments” of late were in danger of being swept from my mind. The self-loathing threatened their very existence in my heart and mind. I had failed…in a big way. How could someone who is supposed to be leading do something so thoughtless? Then, God stopped me and reminded me of a main point from that weekend’s message: Defining Moments by Kay Woodward – “The moment of truth is the truth of the moment”. He snatched me from the deceit of my habits.
Yes, it was a failure on my part, but it was also a defining moment – one that can either be defined by the truth of Christ or by the lies of Satan. What truth did God speak to me in the stillness of my bedroom? “Yes, this was a mistake, but it was unintentional and made in a safe place. I know you won’t do it again. You must forgive yourself.”
This was the truth of the moment. We can either allow our failures to define us or we can allow our God to define our failures, to sanctify us and reveal His glory to us and through us.
Jesus reminded me, as only He can, that my failures do not strip me of His love or calling on my life any more than my goodness is responsible for Him giving them to me in the first place. Failures are defining moments, there is no doubt, but how we allow them to define us is completely up to us.
It’s no coincidence that I was able to sit in all three services the previous weekend and hear Kay preach the same message three times. My God knew. He knew what was going to take place, and He knew I would need that truth planted firmly in my heart. He prepared a way for me out of my failure before I ever entered into it. He has done and will do the same for you.
I was tempted to fall into what I believed was my default, but our God is faithful to keep His promise when he said through the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “You are tempted in the same way all other human beings are. God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted any more than you can take. But when you are tempted, God will give you a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
Hear me. You are not defined by your failures. You can choose to believe the lies Satan so freely whispers in your mind. You can choose to partner with him in saying them to yourself. Or you can choose to seek God’s face, crawl into His arms and allow Him to show you the truth of who you are.
In her book, Breaking Free, Beth Moore says, “A Christian is held captive by anything that hinders the abundant and effective Spirit-filled life God planned for him or her” (p. 25). This is what Paul says about that in Galatians 5:1, “Christ has set us free. He wants us to enjoy freedom. So stand firm. Don’t let the chains of slavery hold you again.” Don’t let the chains of shame, guilt, regret, or self-loathing hold you again.
Do something for yourself. Fill in the blank: “I am letting the chains of ________ hold me captive even though I have been set free by the blood of Christ.” Now…go. Pray. Seek God. Open your Bibles. Do not let another minute of that captivity go by.
Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom…Jesus came to give you life and life to the full…While we were still sinners, Christ died for us…I no longer live, but it is Christ who lives in me.
In order to know the truth, you have to know the Truth. God has an abundant and effective Spirit-filled life planned for you. Do not remain in the cage of captivity when Jesus has already opened the door and set you free. Failures will happen.Fail forward.
Go check out Summer’s previous guest post, Surrender All To Me.