I failed my driving test.
The road test in Michigan today is nothing like it was when I was sixteen years old. Today, it is expensive to get your license under the age of eighteen. Therefore, I was relieved when both of my children decided to wait.
On the day of my son’s road test, we pulled into the parking lot and I noticed the conspicuously placed orange traffic cones. It had not occurred to me – even once – that my son would be tested on parallel parking and backing into a parking space. I panicked.
I panicked for him. My empathy antenna reaches far. It is hyper-sensitive, especially for my children. Some days it seems I can feel their energy even 100 miles away. Okay, maybe I’m slightly exaggerating, but my mother’s instinct went into high gear. I gave him all the advice I could regarding parallel parking. This advice would fit in a thimble since I basically know zero things about it.
In the 80s, a long, long time ago before the internet, I took my road test. Parallel parking consisted of pulling up along side the curb in front of someone’s house. This was essentially the sum total of my experience with parallel parking over the course of my driving career.
I was so nervous on the day of my test that my knuckles were white as I gripped the steering wheel. I was focused on every word the instructor gave me because I did not want to make a mistake. My tunnel vision locked into every right and left command given. I was focused so intensely on the instructor that I failed to stop for the stop sign. Not once, but twice. It just so happens that road test instructors prefer drivers to stop for stop signs. Thus, I was invited to return and try again another day.
As my son and I sat in the car, I felt like a failure all over again. How do you forget to prepare your children for their driving test? Then I remembered that failure is part of life. He would be fine if he needed to re-test. Life would go on and he would learn from it.
I am pleased to tell you that he passed the road test on the first attempt. My mother’s guilt was relieved, and I properly prepared my daughter when it was her turn.
We all hate to fail. It is embarrassing and humiliating. Sometimes I tell myself that failure is just a reminder to stay humble. And then I ask God why I need so many reminders. I’m on the back half of this thing called life. It seems failure should be easier. I mean I’ve had plenty of practice. But it’s not. The ego always has something to say even though I keep telling her to shut up.
Yet, failure is our friend. It teaches us what is important and what is not. It shows us what we didn’t know and what we don’t want. It shifts our perspective and highlights our priorities. Most of all, it reminds us that we are human and we all have this in common. The only ones who never fail are those who never try.
I plan to fail a lot this year because I plan to try many new things. My ego is so pumped about it! Not really. Rather, some days she is screaming at me to stop. She reminds me of all the past failures and the pain it caused me. Today, as I was working on something new, my ego was working overtime reminding me of failures both recent and long ago. It was then that I put down my pen and thanked her.
My ego has been faithful. She has protected me from danger both real and imagined. My ego was simply doing her job. So I thanked her and reminded her that it will be okay. We have survived failure in the past and we will be alright in the future. We might even be better because of it.
Welcome back, friends! I have missed you. I have been busy with Lent, Easter, and denominational meetings, but I am excited about this episode.
Janel Ramsey is the podcast co-host of Brew Theology. We discuss her book, Women Experiencing Faith, and this idea of embodiment, including the influence of Purity Culture on the church. Janel shares her story of deconstruction and the process that helped her to discern her next steps. It is a raw and authentic conversation. I appreciate her willingness to share her journey with us.
I believe there are good take-aways for women and men in this episode as well as pastors and laity.
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Things from the episode:
Faith Shift by Kathy Escobar
Divine Dance by Richard Rohr
God Can’t: How to Believe in God and Love After Tragedy and Abuse
Shortly after my encounter with Christ I stumbled across a Christian radio station. I had no idea there was such a thing. There is a station that plays Jesus music? Wait, there is Jesus music that you do not sing in church? Anyway, the radio station had commercials. I mean… a lot of commercials. So many! Commercials for churches and preachers and Bible bookstores.
I could not believe it. There was an entire store for Bibles and Bible-related books. You have got to be kidding me. I am not going to tell you the name of the first Bible bookstore I visited. For one, they do not exist anymore. Also, I do not want to date myself. However, now that I think about it, the fact that it was a physical Bible bookstore tells you plenty.
I decided I must see this for myself. Look, it is a bookstore with books and pens and journals. These are my favorite things. They also sold Bible studies. I had no idea what those were, but I was hoping they could answer my many questions. Mostly the ones about Jesus and all the killing in the Old Testament. After so many years, I am still trying to wrap my mind around the killing parts.
When I walked in the store there were so many Bibles. Big ones. Small ones that fit in your pocket. Hard and soft covers. Different colors. And something about translations. I was quite certain I needed one in English, but it turns out that was not what they meant by “translations”. It felt like I stepped into a parallel universe. They were speaking English, but I did not understand the words they were saying.
As I approached the cashier counter, I was not even sure what question to ask. Instead, I simply inquired if they carried Bible studies. Her expression was one of confusion and disgust as she wrinkled her nose at me. Then she pointed towards several racks saying, “They are over there”.
Here is the thing, my beautiful reader friends, if someone asks if you carry Bible studies (at the Bible bookstore), then they are possibly a new Christian. Just be gracious and help a sister or brother out. K? Thanks.
I browsed the racks, and I was clueless. Now I laugh at myself, but in that moment, I was overwhelmed, and the blood drained from my face. I felt light-headed and wondered how anyone managed to follow Jesus. It was all so big and complicated! Most weeks I was trying to simply make it through Monday. What in the world was eschatology and did it even matter?
Some of the books had a notation indicating level of difficulty. Was there a level below novice? Children’s section perhaps? I needed an introduction to the introduction of the Bible.
The first study I chose was on money or time management. I bought it because they said it was for beginners. I sat at the kitchen table with my Bible and study book. The first page introduced the topic and some reflection questions. Some of them had Bible references that I miraculously found. But I kept looking in the back of the book for answers. There were no answers.
In school, the textbooks often had answers in the back. It let you know if you were on track. The Bible studies did not have an answer section and it was confusing me more. I sat back in my chair and let out a loud sigh. It was exasperating and I needed help. Then I thought of my friend’s Tupperware party.
My friend had recently invited me to her house to hear all about the new Tupperware products. People still do these. Tupperware, Partylite, MaryKay. All of them. So, my friend invited a group of us for a party. We sat in a circle, drank coffee, and the Tupperware gal told us all about plastic bowls with burp lids. It’s a thing. Ask your mom.
As I was sitting in my chair, I thought I could have a party. Instead of Tupperware, we could study the Bible together. It would be a group thing and we could help one another figure out the Bible. I later discovered this is a thing people do in church. They have groups parties every week, but they call them Sunday School classes. Dude! You could have told me.
Anyway, I dug out my address book and started calling my friends. “Hi Amy, I’ve been reading the Bible and I am going to have a Bible study. Do you want to come?”
Five women said yes. It should be obvious at this point, but I had no clue what I was doing. And still I started a Bible study in my home. This is because desperate people do desperate things, and I think the church needs a few more desperate people.
We need people willing to start Bible studies who are hungry to know Christ and share Christ. We need desperate souls who will start churches and orphanages. We need desperate people who will adopt and foster children who need God’s love. But maybe, just maybe, we are not desperate enough.
We are 14 or 15 months into a pandemic. Are you desperate yet? Is the Church sensing God moving them to do something radical? Different? I am praying that we get hungry for God. Most of us are hungry for our own way. But I am praying we get desperate for God’s presence and the assignments He is preparing for each of us. We have been doing things the same way for so long that we are unable to see other options. But God has promised to make a way when there seems to be no way. He has given us His creative Spirit so that we can also be creative. But that means we have to forget what we know and let Him show us another way.
I hope that today you will ask God to make you desperate because we need desperate people!