My eleven-year-old daughter stepped onto a field yesterday in all her field hockey gear.
She was the one on the field, but I was the one who was nervous. Some of these girls have been playing for years and this is my girl’s first year. Would they be gentle with her? Would the coach be an encourager? (They were and she is!).
This is all new to us. I don’t even come from a hometown community where field hockey existed as a sport. I don’t understand any of the rules or know how you move the ball around with that funky, slightly curved stick.
When we picked out her equipment, I went to the sports consignment shop and asked a million questions.
She needs shinguards. Is that the same as soccer shinguards or what? She needs eye protection. What in the world? How do you know what size stick to use? My goodness that ball is hard. They really play with this thing?
I am an extreme novice. A beginner of all beginners. I’m starting from zero.
And that’s good.
It’s good not to know all the answers before you even begin.
So, when she walked onto the slightly wet grass yesterday wearing her field hockey shinguards and holding her funky looking stick, I could not have been more proud of her.
She’s brave enough to try something new.
Me? I don’t like to try new things. I only want to try something I’m pretty sure I can succeed at, and by succeeding I don’t mean having fun. I mean not looking foolish or making mistakes or ever falling down or ever doing it wrong.
You know, being perfect.
So, if I can’t be perfect, I don’t want to try.
And that’s wrong. That’s terribly messed up and mistaken right there. It creates a fear-driven paralysis and a performance-driven faith.
Not trying is the real failure. That’s the mistake you can’t correct or overcome.
Trying something new takes humility and the willingness to put yourself out there in a deeply courageous way.
I read these words today in a book by Sarah Loudin Thomas:
“… getting things wrong is nothing more than one of the steps on the way to getting them right” (Tapestry of Secrets).
Priscilla Shirer also says,
“mistakes are often the greatest teachers to help us learn to discern Him more clearly in the future. So practice. Stub your spiritual toes and scrape your spiritual knees. And once you’re back on your feet, start practicing again” (Discerning the Voice of God).
Maybe so much of my problem is that I’ve seen all of this—life, ministry, hearing from God, jobs and activities–as the “game.”
It’s competition time. Perform. Succeed. Be perfect. Don’t embarrass yourself.
But maybe I need to see it as practice instead.
Practice is about taking risks. It’s about building skills. It’s about ending the day as a better, wiser, more experienced player than the one I was this morning.
It’s about trying something, finding out it doesn’t work, and doing it differently next time.
It’s about learning from the coach and the players around me. It’s about turning to Jesus, over and over and over again because I know just how much I need Him.
I’ve messed this up as a mom before and I so need to get this right, making our home and our family a safe place to try. How can our home be a place where we applaud risking-failure while doing something new? Where we cheer you on for following Jesus and you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be in progress?
I’ve messed this up before as a person, too, and I so need to get this right, being willing to obey God even when it means risking mistakes and stumbles and failures along the way.
After all, I may see a mistake as THE END, but God doesn’t. He knows this is practice.
The Psalmist says:
The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
when he delights in his way;
24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the Lord upholds his hand. Psalm 37:23-24 ESV
If our hearts are set on the Lord, if we’re delighting in His way, sure, we might fall sometimes.
But we won’t fail and it won’t be THE END. We won’t be permanently disqualified from future ministry or written off by God as an unusable vessel, a disappointment, a failure.
No, the Lord holds us up so those moments when we fall, He keeps us from truly failing. He gently sets us back on our shaky feet. He leads us forward to try those steps all over again.
And the best part is, He always keeps hold of our hand.