There’s been a certain quote I feel has been following me around. I see it everywhere: on television, in movies, and especially on my reading list. In a book about a struggling artist and in another about a woman recovering from anorexia, the authors both brought it up. For awhile I thought it was just a coincidence, but after truly studying the words, I think God is trying to teach me something with this quote.
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
It was penned by Samuel Beckett, a playwright and novelist during WWII and the 1960s.
When it comes to my love of theatre and writing, I have learned to accept that my work will never be finished or perfect. Every time I get on stage or open up a fresh Word document, I know that I can and will do better than the time before. It’s that undeniable pull all artists have to share and express truth. We may have failed and we might will fail again, but we will always be growing in our experiences and our talent.
I wish I could say I felt that way every time I’ve failed. Most of the time I don’t feel like I’m growing at all. Failure makes me feel stuck in my circumstances. Being rejected, being fired, being left out. Publicly or privately, any sort of failure can be humiliating and haunting and hard. It can hurt us into never attempting anything new again.
I remember trying out for a queen contest in my small town a couple years ago. I had filled out a thick application, been intensely interviewed, and was asked to prepare a speech that had to be given before the queen and her two attendants were announced.
Out of four girls I was the only one not chosen to be on the court. I was silently escorted off stage while the other girls were given their crowns.
I was so embarrassed. Not because I was sad I wasn’t on the court. I was truly only doing it because of the scholarship money that went with the titles. What upset was that I actually thought I could do it. I went into those interviews with no doubt in mind that I would be chosen.
Once again I felt like the world was telling me I wasn’t good enough.
Even after multiple successful auditions in something I did love, I let something I only vaguely cared about hurt me.
I’ve had many moments before and since this event where the world told me the exact same thing: I am not enough. Some of these were through personal experiences, but also through the mouths of very close friends I trusted. Those incidents hurt worse than anything I could have ever done to myself.
I am sure the future will be full of many more. Why? Because I am imperfect and surrounded my imperfect people. Failure will come again because I’m a broken person living in a broken world.
Hebrews 10:13: For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
It doesn’t matter what the world could say of us when Scripture says we are made perfect in Christ’s love.
I think that is why I have connected with this quote by Samuel Beckett. While some people may look at me and see a confident young woman, I am only where I’m at because God has inspired me to push past insecurity and work harder. I know what failure is all too well.
I did a little research on Mr. Beckett and discovered most of his writings focus on despair and survival in a cold and unforgiving world. That description of life may sound very familiar to a lot of us. I can point to several times in my life when I was only surviving in a state of numbness, asking myself if getting out of bed was even worth it.
In Biblical Greek, the word “sin” is translated as “failure.” When we sin and disobey God, we do fail him. But unlike the world, God will always ask us to come back and try again. If we allow it, failure can bring us closer to God.
When we fall into a sinful trap—maybe for the first time or the last—God tells us to keep moving forward.
Jeremiah 8:4: Jeremiah, say this to the people of Judah. This is what the Lord says: “You know if a man falls down, he gets up again. And if a man goes the wrong way, he turns around and comes back.”
He asks us to learn from our mistakes.
Psalm 119:71: It was good for me to be afflicted so that I could learn Your statutes.
Then he asks us to trust him for the future.
Revelation 3:8: I know your works. Because you have limited strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name, look, I have placed before you an open door that no one is able to close.
It’s not easy giving up control like that. Sometimes I look at the stories in the Bible and feel more discouraged than improved. How could I ever have faith like Mary, strength like David, or the hope of Job?
But when ever I ask myself these questions, I am reminded of this poem that has been shared on social media for awhile. There are many different versions, but this is one I always go back to.
In the Bible:
Jacob was a cheater
Peter had a temper
David had an affair
Noah was a drunk
Jonah ran from God
Paul was a murderer
Gideon was insecure
Miriam was a gossip
Martha was a worrier
Thomas was a doubter
Sara was impatient
Elijah was moody
Zaccheus was short
Abraham was old
Lazarus was dead
There is nothing on this earth—no failure, no sin—that God can’t overcome.
He is so much bigger than this, so much bigger than our problems. If you don’t think you’ll ever be happy again; if you don’t think this horrible time in your life will end; if you think God could never forgive or love someone like you, please think again. God uses and loves broken people, hurt people, desperate people. Read his promises in Scripture. He’s helped so many. He’ll help you, too.
About the Author:
Ellie Zumbach is currently a student at Malone University studying Creative Writing and Theatre. From a very young age, she has loved stories and their power to encourage, teach, and inspire. She is a proud member of a drama ministry team known as the Chancel Players and a co-director of the Writers Guild on campus. Welcome Ellie as she shares her words with “Memoirs of a Virtuous Woman” readers as an intern for Fall 2017.
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