Friday, April 17, 2015

Sometimes Messing Up is the Best Thing You Can Do

"This summer," I told Anna the other day, "You are going to submit something to Story Pirates."

We learned about Story Pirates from the kid's station on XM radio. Kids submit stories (sans any help from parents) and they pick the best ones to not just read, but dramatize during a weekly show.

Anna's an amazing writer. Her stories are clever and humorous and far better than most of what I was writing at her age. Yet she's never tried to submit a story to any sort of contest or publication.

"But what if it's not good enough?" she asked.

"That's not the point. The point is to do it."

She was afraid, as all of us are, of rejection. Of trying and failing. Of her pride being wounded.

Oh, how I knew.

I thought back to just a few days' prior. At church. I was singing. There was a song I was supposed to sing while they were collecting the offering. Well, we all were singing it, but I was the one starting it. I have always, always feared launching off into a song in the wrong key. The fear has actually almost paralyzed me. There have been times I knew the note just fine, but the thought of missing the note almost took my breath away so I couldn't sing at all.

I was probably being a little ambitious the other day. I'd never heard the song played at church before. We were having the guys strum just one chord of the song before I was supposed to jump in. The first note was a little high for me anyway, which was throwing me off, and so, yeah...I plunged into one of my greatest singing fears: starting on the wrong note.

But this, this is what I started telling Anna: I survived! I corrected myself. I kept singing. Maybe not well, because I was so flustered, but I kept singing. Mortified, but singing.

"Anna, you've got to do this, not because you've got to win. But because you're a good writer, and it's time to face that fear," I told her.

I knew it wouldn't be the first time she'd try and (possibly) fail. But the greater tragedy would be not trying.

There was more.

I thought about the other times I'd seen various people up on the stage make mistakes. There was the day we ended up doing a special song earlier than we'd anticipated -- and the lead guitarist was in the bathroom. I felt so bad for him as he returned a few minutes later, 300 pairs of eyes on him, waiting for him to start the song. There was the time the worship leader not only started singing the song in the wrong key but also tripped on stage and knocked over some equipment. There was the young guy who fainted right in the middle of the "Hallelujah Chorus" in Handel's Messiah one Christmas.

In retrospect, these were not the events that defined them. But what they did do was encourage me. They encouraged me to get up and keep going. To not beat myself up too much over a mistake. To have fun. To laugh (as hard as this may be) at myself. To know perfection is not the goal -- especially in church, where it's so not about us.

I was reminded, as I spoke to Anna, that our mistakes may not be just for us to learn from. They may be for someone else, too. Maybe there are people who need to see we spectacularly failed but didn't give up...we went ahead and wrote the article and had it rejected again and again and again...took the test and failed but kept studying for next time.

Maybe someone else just needs to remember we're all human.

And the best part? When our failings mean something, they become useful rather than just random crummy things that happen. They have a purpose. More and more, I learn this: whatever; whatever happens to us can be redeemed.

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