'We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.' Roman's 5:3-4
This is a story I have told many, many times. It's the one where I had to pass a fitness test to be able to start the first game of my university football team. Until this day, I have never passed this test. Once I came extremely close, within seconds of passing it. Instead of pushing myself over the line though, I slowed down. I slowed down because my legs were hurting a little more than I was willing to endure. This epitomises my life. More often than not, if not most of the time, I slow down, stop and turn around, when it gets too hard.
This happened the time I quit the athletics team after the fifth practice because everyone was faster than I. They had been training for years. This happened the time two close friends told me I was selfish and I didn't fight for them by trying to change or be a better friend. This happened when I quit the jobs I quit, the teams I left, the relationships I let fade, the projects I left unfinished, the books I stopped writing, the dreams I let die. In short, it has happened far too much. Enough for me to be here at 29 years old feeling like I've lived less than 20% of my potential. I've been good at so many things in my life but I've never been great.
Maybe it's because I'm a parent now that I crave a taste of greatness and that I want to pursue excellence no matter if it breaks me. Maybe I realise that giving up is only a synonym for 'living in fear'. I've been living in fear and it has placed so many limits on my life that I feel, as though they are real, the shackles that hold me back from doing anything really well in my life. I know where this fear comes from. It wasn't hard to figure out. It's also not an uncommon fear. But here it is… I fear failure. I fear it like I fear tsunamis and sharks and lions and snakes and murderers. This is no exaggeration! My fear of failure fills me with dread so many of my days. I wake up with it at the top of my throat. It drags me with it into every new day and I find myself, more and more, having to rebuke it, to fight it away.
But I can't do this anymore. I can't be afraid of failure anymore. My experience so far is that if you don't face failure you face something even scarier… purposelessness. So now I'm saying… bring it on failure. Come at me with all your machetes! Run head first into me with your long, sharp beak. Batter me. Break me. Do whatever you need to do. I won't be afraid.
Look at me straight in the face FAILURE. Look into my eyes. I have something to say to you!!!!!
I'm NOT afraid of being a nobody!
I'm NOT afraid of not having money!
I'm NOT afraid of my family and friends thinking I've unachieved!
I'm NOT afraid of being unpopular!
I'm NOT afraid of people thinking I am unambitious!
I'm NOT afraid of being different and being disliked!
I'm NOT afraid of the hard graft!
I'm NOT afraid to sweat, to be in pain, to suffer!
I'm NOT afraid of what people will think of my choices!
I'm NOT afraid of what people will say about me!
I'm NOT afraid to try 20 things before something works!
I'm NOT afraid to work for 20 years before I find my groove!
Over the next year I am going to face every circumstance that makes me feel like a failure with open eyes, a strong stance and a forward motion. I will not slow my pace. I will not stop. I will not turn around.
Let me tell you, though, I AM PETRIFIED. So I have to face fear too! Not just failure. I have to be unafraid of being afraid. I have to recognise the anxiety building up within me and remind myself that I am not afraid. I have to say over and over, bring it on failure, success, the long graft, whatever, bring it on.
When I read the verse at the top of this post I realise that one of the most important things to remember when facing fears, failure and struggles, is that the end goal is NOT success, but HOPE. As soon as I think of success, I open the doors to so many insecurities and fears when things aren't looking so successful. So I'm also saying this…
Success WILL NEVER define me.
Success IS NOT what I live for.
Success IS NOT important to me.
Success IS NOT even a concern.
Success IS ACTUALLY irrelevant.
All I want is HOPE. I want to run this race of life excellently, chasing hope, not success. I will persevere through every tough time, every disappointment, every criticism, every loss, every stagnancy, every rejection, every challenge, because of hope. The hope of seeing my God face to face one day, the way you see your coach at the end of the race, and fall, exhausted, into His big, strong arms, and shout 'MY GOODNESS THAT WAS HARD', then look up into His eyes, more beautiful than anything I could compare it to in an inadequate simile, and say, 'Wow! Nothing has ever felt this incredible!'
I do it all for hope because hope doesn't disappoint. Hope is worth it. Because God so loved the world. There's nothing like the love of God. There's nothing like living in His will and being able to celebrate that when I see Him face to face. This is what I live every day for.
So here goes. I hope my life can be a testimony. I really can't explain how scared I feel and how anxious I get, all too often. Maybe one day, after I've run fast and furious for longer than I could ever imagine I would, I would also be able to articulate how poorly-off I started. How far I've come. With legs trembling, I run blazing into tomorrow!
Here goes. Wish me luck, or better, pray for me.
What about you? Do you have grit? What keeps you going? I would love to hear more about it!