Read: Hebrews 5:11-14
• How you do one thing is how you do everything
• Failure either defines you or teaches you
When I turned 21 I bought alcohol just because I could. It was rite of passage despite the fact that I’d been sober from drugs and alcohol for 2+ years. But one drink led to two to three to drunk. The next morning I woke up with a throbbing head feeling ashamed at how bad I’d been. I was going to hell. I hid in my room and had a “come to Jesus” moment with God, relaying all my failures, all my shortcomings, and all the sins of the previous 4 years. This bath of shame and regret was part of my punishment for not being good. I deserved it. And welcomed it with open arms.
I was a failure after all.
Over the next weeks I doubled my efforts to show God how good I could be. I volunteered more. I read the Bible every morning and evening. I played more Christian music. I prayed harder. But soon I found myself back in my room on my knees filled with shame and regret.
Again and again.
Because I was ashamed, I hid it from the people who cared about me. And because I hid it I avoided connecting with them because I’d have to explain where I’d been and why and then they would know the truth about me and be so disappointed.
So I tried harder.
Around the same time, I started trying to lose weight. I picked a diet, started exercising, and began following the program. After being “good” for a few days or weeks, I gave in to a dessert or some cereal. One bite led to two to three to the whole box.
Filled with shame, regret, and bloat, I resolved to start again. I planned out what I’d do and when. I exercised harder. I welcomed feeling bad about myself and my choices as the punishment I rightly deserved.
If only I can be good, I thought, then I’ll lose weight and a guy will want me.
If only I lose weight, then life will be happy, worry-free, and full of adventure.
So I tried harder.
How you do one thing is how you do everything
What seems like two different stories are one and the same. How you do one thing is how you do everything. The same thing that caused me to hide the drinking is the same thing that kept me on a diet roller coaster. By focusing on the mistake - the drinking, the failure, the poor performance - I missed the real problem. And by doing so, I kept myself stuck, repeating the same old behaviors and the same old cycles for years.
It reminds me of this passage from the book of Hebrews:
“About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
It feels so frustrating to continually start over on the same basic things that you “should” have a handle on by now. After all, it’s just food and exercise, right?! But today you’re going to learn how to adopt a holy mindset by embracing failure, so that you get off the hamster wheel of regret start making progress. When you shift you approach in one way, it touches everything else in your life too.
And it’s all about a change of focus.
Continually starting over and needing to “be perfect” this time is like the people who continually need milk instead of solid food. They’re stuck. They haven’t graduated to bigger and better things because they keep making the same old mistakes.
But let me ask you this: how do you train your power of discernment?
According to Hebrews it’s by constant practice to tell good from evil.
And what is practice?
Practice is rehearsing a behavior over and over in order to improve, refine, and master it. During practice, it’s okay to mess up and make mistakes. You’re expected to.
So if you only mature through practice, then it’s time to let go of “needing to be perfect” and embrace failure as part of practice. I bet some of the most important lessons of your life came during and after your biggest failures. Because through failure, we learn our limits, we learn what doesn’t work, and we learn what we should do instead.
When this clicks, everything changes.
If Peter had focused on his failure of denying Jesus (how do you top that?) he would never have become one of the early churches greatest leaders.
If Paul had wallowed in the shame of his complicit murdering of Christians, he would never have helped spread the gospel so far.
Fast forward 8 years and I can keep alcohol in the house and enjoy one glass (or 2) without losing control. I don’t fear re-gaining the 30 lbs of fat either, even if there’s dessert, parties, and holidays. I’m not some weirdo who’s super-strong. I’m a sister just like you who has learned important lessons through my mistakes and through constant practice.
But the difference between who I was and who I am now is that I now embrace failure as a learning opportunity (and a sign that I’m doing something right) instead of proving my talents, skills, abilities, and goodness (or lack thereof).
Shame is the feeling many of us get from failure that whispers, “You’re a bad person” and “You’re not enough,” and “If only you tried harder, then you would get it right and get ______ results.” Shame causes us to hide, to wallow, and to strive for perfection and approval. For many of us, shame is a close friend, always present and ready to punish us for “being bad” on our diet or exercise efforts.
But here’s the thing about shame: it can’t stand being named or brought out into the open. The more I hid my failures and imperfections, the more failure and imperfection I had. The moment I embraced them as practice is the moment my life shifted in big ways and I began to realize my self-worth.
The more I embraced, the more I learned. And the more I learned, the more I was able to practice control with things with which I previously had NO CONTROL.
Embracing failure as a practice is a part of the Christian walk instead of proving what you're worth and where you belong. Knowing where you currently have and do not have control over food is invaluable in your weight loss journey because you know what to keep in the house and what to ditch.
But it's all about practice.