Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Failure and Moving Forward

Several years ago I read the book “The Happiness Project.”  I loved it.  I loved each chapter that described a different facet in the author’s search for more happiness.  Except for the chapter on failure.  When she said that happy people enjoy the fun of failure, I just didn’t get it.

After all, my entire life is and has been an effort to succeed, and to succeed well.  I won’t afflict you with the details of my successes, but let’s just say that I’m reasonably intelligent and fairly accomplished and I don’t often do failure.

Until now.

When Russ lost his job I was resolved to handle it well.  I was going to have the Right Attitude and the Right Heart and Trust in the Lord.  I even publicly declared my resolution in testimony meeting.

There are things about this experience that I believe that I have handled well.  I think that for the most part I single parented well.  I think I did a pretty good job of doing the things that needed to be done in my house, even when they were outside of my skill set.  I was really good at finding help when I needed it and accepting it when it was offered.  (Something that is not always true for me.)  I think that I did a good job of celebrating relationships and rejoicing with all of my dear friends before I left. 

But Trusting in the Lord?  Accepting His plan??  Following Him willingly???


Total Fail.


I’ve always wondered if I could have succeeded as a pioneer.  Would I have been able to obey when it was time to leave everything and walk across the entire country?  Would I have been able to handle my husband leaving with little preparation and no money to serve a mission in a foreign country?? 

I think I probably would have done it, but only because I am at heart an obedient person.  But oh, it would have been ugly.  I think that after the last 6 months I can safely say that I would have been angry, resistant, unwilling, complaining, and whiney.


For years now I’ve had this fantasy of being able to handle adversity with a kind of Maxwellian yielding of the heart—of being able to gracefully submit my will and my plans to His.  The reality could not have been more different.  Despite plenty of spiritual impressions and reassurances, I have not yet been able to achieve more than a modicum of submission, and sometimes none at all.  I have spent most of my time in fear rather than faith, unable to trust that Heavenly Father’s plan is really what is best for me.  I have not yet been able to let go of my own desires and want what God (obviously) wants.  I have been angry and ungrateful and unloving much of the time.


Epic Fail.


Thankfully I am obedient, and so we start our new life in Oregon, regardless of the fact that I was kicking and screaming most of the way across the country.  (Emotionally more than physically.)   I’m sure that eventually I will begin to see the wisdom in the Lord’s plan.  I hope that one day I will rejoice in it—but I truly cannot imagine that at this point.  And I just can’t help feeling that it would have been so much nicer and cleaner (and successful) if I had been able to follow my original plan to handle everything just right spiritually. 



I’ve also realized that I am not good at moving forward after such a failure.  Going forward after a success?  I know how to do that.  But in this moment I find myself almost stalled, unsure of how to regain forward motion.  The other day I opened my Book of Mormon to the 5th chapter of 1st Nephi and was reminded again of some insights I’d had a couple of months ago as I’d read the chapter.  What were merely interesting insights before were especially meaningful as I thought of them again this week.

We don’t know much about Sariah, Lehi’s wife and Nephi’s mother.  She must have been very faithful to give up her home, friends, and possessions to follow her husband out into the desert.  However she’d handled everything up to that point, though, when Nephi and his brothers went to Jerusalem to get the plates and took longer getting back then she thought they should, she lost it.  She was sure that her sons had died and she blamed it on Lehi and his visions. 

What was so interesting to me when I read this a couple of months ago was to see what happened next.  The boys came back, Sariah rejoiced, told how her testimony was strengthened because of the experience, and then they offered a sacrifice & burnt offerings and thanked the Lord.  There is no mention of Sariah beating herself up endlessly over her lapse of faith, no continued commentary from Nephi on his mother’s moment of weakness.  It happened, she learned from it, and she appears to have moved on.

As these thoughts came back to me I realized that they are exactly what I needed to “hear” in this moment.  A message from the Spirit that I can learn from this, that my faith can be strengthened, and that instead of dwelling on the agony/frustration/humiliation of having failed, I need to move on. 


So on I go.  And hopefully the next time failure comes around (as I am sure it will) I will remember this moment and the lessons learned and be able to handle it a little more gracefully.



This is a song that really touched me recently—seemed to have a lot to do with my inner struggle.


  1. For what it's worth- I would have been the first to sign up to be in your wagon train:). I love your insights about Sariah...that's one of my favorite stories in the Book of Mormon- I love it when you get to see that human weakness is inevitable as a result of our mortal state, but that it doesn't have to separate us from God. Much more fun to READ about it than it is to actually LIVE it, of course!

  2. I like that song! Thanks for sharing. And good post all around.

  3. Interesting. Just so you know... from an outside perspective, I was so impressed with how you handled everything. Of course, it was easy to see the heartache and struggles you were having but, always, they were accompanied with a declaration of your faith. Maybe you didn't feel it at the times you were saying it, but at least you could always say the words - that shows a willingness to obey if nothing else. And I think that, sometimes, that may be all the Lord expects from us. I'm sure he's pleased with you...