ICE, ICE, Baby

ICE, ICE, Baby

This past week has taken me to Tampa, Miami, Valdosta, and back home to Dothan. In all, I drove over 1400 miles and spent over 20 hours behind the wheel. I’m pretty sure I’ll be sleeping in tomorrow.

Yet when I think about this trip and how unnecessarily inefficient it was, I feel blessed in knowing this trip was also about me being with my people.

When you look on my phone and the individuals listed on my ICE list (in case of emergency), these are the people I got to see and share time with on this trip. These are the people that make up my inner circle. These are the people that matter to me most.

It was the person who called me and allowed me to pray and cry with him when he was diagnosed with cancer. It was his wife who inspired my faith by making her daughter’s relationship with Christ a priority. It was the friend with whom I jumped out of an airplane. It was her husband who continually challenges me to find ways to serve others. It was my ex-wife who taught me about forgiveness. It was the daughter she and I share that taught me about what’s truly important. It was my brother who continues to model what family is all about.

And I got to come home to my wife, the person who is my best friend and partner in everything I do.

I like to think I’ve done well in my life. Not perfect by any stretch, but very blessed to have had a well-paying career, provided for my children, taken steps in my faith life, and hopefully making a positive impact along the way.

But when it comes to considering myself successful, I will defer to Mark Batterson‘s definition.

Why We Fail

As the month of January would have it, there are many blogs, magazine articles, talk shows, etc. centered on the topic of resolutions. “New Year, New You.” Now is the time to start fresh with all those things we all have been meaning to do, and I know I have my laundry list of resolutions for 2013.

And with each list of resolutions made comes a list of resolutions not achieved. It’s normal. You can say it’s par for the course with every New Year.  Still, it got me to thinking about all the times, both big and small, that I have not managed to reach my goals.

I’ve written before about how movies have a way of touching our lives and correlating our real world experiences to what we see on the screen. I recently sat down with Lee to watch The Adjustment Bureau – a very underrated movie about an enduring love story – and there was a part of the film that really struck a chord with a particular moment in my life.

[SPOILER ALERT] In the movie, the character of David Norris, played by Matt Damon, is asking the love of his life Elise to trust him and go with him through a door. “I can go through this door alone. You’ll never see me or the people chasing us again. Or you can come with me, and I don’t know what’s on the other side, but you’d be next to me and that’s all I’ve wanted since the minute I met you.”

I lived that moment. Well … something very similar to that moment. A love induced plea to someone, asking them to take a leap of faith and hold my hand all the way through it. It didn’t happen and I went through that door by myself, landing flat on my face, devastated and heart-broken.

I failed.

I will admit it took some effort to bounce back from that event. The road back to normalcy was not a fast or easy one, and it was one that was littered with pain and mistakes that all stemmed from that failure. It was a time at which I stumbled, fell, and stayed down.

What I realize now is that it’s okay to fail.  After all, what is failure if not the building blocks of future success? As I correlate that moment, and all the other difficult experiences in my life, to what I continue to learn in my spiritual journey with God, I find that it’s not about the stumbles we take. Rather, what’s important is our willingness to get back up. What truly matters is our readiness to be redeemed after we fall.

Even Jesus, who chose to put the weight of my sins and my selfishness and my flaws on his shoulders, fell three times on his way to be sacrificed for me. To me, there is no greater or more telling example of ‘getting back up’ than that of Jesus. Beaten, bloodied, and broken, He stood back up to fulfill His promise and redeem me from my sins.

Having the luxury of looking back, now more than seven years removed from my personal rock-bottom experience, and being able to apply the context of hindsight and lessons learned, I know that I would not be where I am today if not for that moment of failure. That door being shut turned out to be the opening to another door that has yielded thousands of wonderful and exciting memories.

Accomplishing your resolutions for the New Year is great, and it’s something towards which everyone should diligently strive. However, it’s important to be reminded that it is not the end of the world if we don’t achieve those goals. The important thing is that we try, and when we fail, we get back up and try again.

Offsetting the Gravity of Failure

Failure. The word itself is filled with weight.

I used to live in a world where the gravity of failure could be paralyzing. The idea of not succeeding or not attaining my personal goals was unthinkable to me.

It’s not as if my life was perfect and did not have its share of setbacks. Still, I feel I always lived a blessed life, and, for the most part, I had always been able to achieve that which I set out to do. This is, of course, until life served up a healthy dose of reality that allowed me to open my eyes to the truth. I guess that’s what maturity is: the clarity of vision that’s achieved with the passing of time and the accumulation of experience.

My closed door begins with a love story. It’s the tale of a young lad who falls head over heels for a princess, a princess betrothed to a knight and living comfortably in her castle. The young boy, who himself is committed to someone else, is so blinded by his love and infatuation that he forsakes the bond he once held true in order to pursue the princess, a woman he knows with absolute certainty is his ‘one true love’. The princess returns his affections in kind, and the two of them dream of a happily ever after together.

The story, however, does not conclude with a fairytale ending. Rather, just as the boy is running to the castle gates to claim his princess, she orders the gates be slammed shut. The boy is left to fall into a cavernous mote and anguish as he’s consumed by the metaphorical beast that is failure.

(Aside: Creative liberty and dramatic flair are probably my two favorite things about being a writer.)

So you get the point. I went all in on what I thought was a winning hand, and I ended up losing it all. As I look back on the pivotal moment that changed my life, I still remember the numbness I felt in my body at the realization that what I believed with all my heart to be absolutely true turned out to be false. It was as if a bomb had gone off, and I could hear a ringing in my ears that was literally blinding.

The door to my dream had been slammed shut.

In keeping with the theatrical writing, I would like for you to imagine a movie scene you’ve seen a million times. The hero takes a fall or is ambushed and hit in the back of the head. The screen goes black. Next, you see the hero groggily opening his eyes and trying desperately to find his orientation or figure out where he is. That’s what happened to me.

Following my life changing failure moment, it took me a while to figure out what came next. Yet once I was able to open my eyes to see and understand things from a new perspective, so many things became clear to me.

I’m nearly forty years old and I can say without equivocation I’ve lived more in the last six years since that life changing event than I had prior to that point. There is no doubt in my mind that moment of failure was the best thing that ever happened to me. I would, in all likeliness, not be writing at this moment if not for that event that crushed my heart and left me emotionally dead for a period of time.

To put it into better perspective, that moment was not a closed door that lead to an open door. It was a closed door that lead to a million open, wonderful, amazing, unbelievable, and exciting doors, and it’s been an absolute blessing to have been able to walk through them all. Just about everything I have today which I cherish and which makes me complete as a person stems from the people I’ve met as a result of that one door being slammed shut in my face.

The saying goes, “This, too, shall pass.” I admit it’s very hard to see down the road when all you can see is a closed door. But when you find yourself in that situation, remind yourself that failure is not an ending but rather the beginning of something new. Failure is indeed full of gravity that can pull you down, but success is measured in your ability to get right back up.

For additional perspective on this posting, please see my older posts “The Great Debate” and “untitled“.