From a young age, I’ve always had this deep fear of failure. As I got older, particularly around the time of my final exams, this fear became crippling. It began to dictate my decision-making and because I was afraid of disappointing others, I stopped trying. My fear even got to the point where I ran out of one of my final exams without even writing my name on the paper. I thought that God was disappointed in me and I was sure there was no coming back from that.
Through out my Discipleship Training School with YWAM, I wanted to hold back, to avoid becoming too invested. I never put my whole heart into things, believing that if I didn’t fully try, then I couldn’t really fail. I wasn’t just being worried, I was allowing it become an excuse for disobeying things I knew God was telling me to do. But I was still plagued with the question: What if I’m the only one who doesn’t receive their certificate?
I was terrified of being involved in a “school” again and was holding onto the idea I was already a ‘failure.’
Living in that mindset leaves no reason to try anymore and very little room for hope. God, however, was not willing to let me sit in my self-pity, and stopped me from worrying so much about others’ opinions. He challenged me through the story of Peter walking on the water towards Jesus.
I’d always looked at the fact that Peter sunk, focusing so much on his failure, rather than the truth that he got out of the boat in the first place.
People knew that Jesus was special, miraculous and some even realised He was God. They wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see Him walking on water: it is just another miracle to add to His list of many. However, Peter messed up. He was ordinary; he was human; he was a failure. He couldn’t possibly think he could walk on water, right?
However, Peter didn’t seem to care what others in the boat thought. He looked at Jesus and he took on the challenge, a literal leap of faith. The likelihood of failure was high, but he had a greater trust in Jesus and wasn’t crippled by his own inadequacies.
In the grand scheme of things, Peter may have taken his eyes off Jesus and sank, but most of us never even get out of the boat.
I felt a challenge from God rise within me, “Would you do that for me? Would you choose to trust me instead of worrying about looking silly to others? Would you put your fear of failure behind you?”
I wanted to push these questions away, but I couldn’t let go of them: Would I?
I’ve come to view failure in a different way recently. I’ve realised that if someone doesn’t want to talk to me in evangelism, I don’t have to fall apart. If my plans for youth ministry collapse on the day, the world doesn’t end. I learnt that receiving my DTS certificate, which I did, doesn’t save me from ever failing again. I’m learning to stop asking ‘What if I fail?” and I’ve started asking myself “Okay, so if I fail, then what?” I have realised the answer is that I’m going to get back up, and with the help of God’s Spirit, I’ll try again.
I’m coming to realise how much my weaknesses and my failure, gives Holy Spirit space to move in my life. When I look at Peter’s life in the bible, I don’t see a failure anymore, I see how led by the Spirit he was. He was a man who wasn’t held back by his failures. He is someone who overcame.
I don’t want people to look at what I’ve achieved myself, but what God has done in and through me. I could live a life of safety, where I never take risks and I stay comfortably in the boat. Or I can choose to live a life of adventure, in obedience to God, running out of the boat every chance I get and my life being unexplainable without the Spirit of God. I now know which one I would choose and it isn’t what I ever expected.
And at the end of the day, I don’t actually want to be known as a woman who never failed. I want to be known as a woman who overcame.
YWAM Newcastle Staff