AFTER WE FAIL
It was a windy summer day and I was finally going to learn how to sail. I was at a friend’s lake house and he happened to have a small Sunfish sailboat, just the right size for a newbie like me. He had been sailing for years and was willing to take me out with him to show me the ropes. He taught me how to sit, steer with the rudder, read the wind and the correct way to turn the boat. I was just getting the hang of it when he said, “Okay, now we are going to flip the boat.” My eyebrows shot up. Umm… really? On purpose? He proceeded to explain, “Flipping the boat is the scariest thing you can do. Once you know how to flip it back over you have nothing else to worry about.”
Fast forward a year. Recently I got to go back out to the same lake house with the same friend and the same Sunfish sailboat. I was eager to try my skills again. It had been a year but I was pretty sure I could remember how to do it. My friend only needed to help me rig up the boat and I was off on my own. I was gleefully catching the wind and racing back and forth up and down the lake when I made the classic incorrect turn. The wind filled the sail and whipped the boom around. I got caught in the rope and before I knew I was in the water watching my sailboat sail away without me. It went for about twenty yards before the sail rolled into the water and the boat came to rest. The expletive I yelled was in surprise but it quickly turned into a laugh. I was actually laughing at the rush of it all. I swam over and grabbed the keel like my friend had showed me. I pulled back hard and patiently waited while the light boat did what it was meant to do, it righted itself. I was back in and sailing, smiling and drying off in the sun in no time.
You and I are not designed to be perfect. We often make mistakes, stumble, fall, screw up and make poor decisions. Instead, we are made to “right ourselves.” Just like the Sunfish sailboat. It was made with the assumption that it will flip and there is a way to recover from these mishaps. Many of us were not taught this. Many of us were not taught what to do after the boat flips, we were just taught, “you better never flip the boat!” Instead of learning what to do after we fail, we were told to avoid it. This is more devastating than it seems at first. This means we are not willing to take risks. We live in constant fear of messing up. And when we do mess up, we have no idea if we have what it takes to “right ourselves” again.
Photo by Stijn Swinnen on Unsplash
I am so glad my friend purposefully flipped our boat. It was uncomfortable in the moment, but that discomfort prepared me for the real thing. When the moment came I didn’t fear it or freeze. I laughed and enjoyed the rush, while competently flipping the boat back over. This is because he had prepared me for failure.
Next time you fail or screw up or make a poor decision, allow yourself to be in the discomfort for a little while. Give yourself a moment or two to grieve or be frustrated and then move on. Get curious. What is this moment teaching you about how to recover? You were made to “right yourself” and the only way to learn is to do it. I wonder if sometimes God says, “Okay, now we are going to flip the boat…”