Failure is inevitable.
Last night I got into an altercation with my young daughter. She wanted to watch a TV show; I wanted her to go to bed. What came next was a series of escalating arguments that ended with one person running out of the room crying and the other person weary and disappointed. (I’ll let you figure out who was who.)
As grown-ups, we have a responsibility to steward our lives well. This well-lived life has essential elements to it: confidence, freedom, joy. Familiar verses come to mind: Jesus saying, “I have come so that [you] may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10); and the apostle Paul reminding the early church: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1).
Sometimes freedom comes easily—when the sun is shining, when the to-do list is short, when the kids are happy. But how do we embrace freedom when all doesn’t feel so well in our souls (or in our parenting)? How do we move past failures of all kinds—in the way we love one another, in the choices we make in our words and thoughts and actions? Here are four ways that can help you move beyond your failure and step into freedom:
1. Admit It.
The first way we move toward the freedom Christ offers is to admit we need it. Most of us don’t like to admit it. We are quick to make concessions for ourselves that move us away from our need rather than toward it. For instance, it’s easy for me to immediately blame my argument with my daughter on being tired. But the counterintuitive first step to real freedom is admitting I didn’t handle it well—without any excuses on why. This might be as simple as slowing down in my soul to ask the question without condemnation, “Did I handle that with love?”
2. Fire Fake Grace.
Fake grace is the way we pretend to be okay with our failures. Fake grace operates on an excuse and a concession. Fake grace builds on excuses and says something like “I got mad at my daughter because I was tired and she was wrong. I’m not superwoman.” Fire that voice in your head. Run away from it. That voice is hardening your heart and keeping you from real grace. True grace moves close to Jesus with the truth: “I admit that I was not as loving as I wanted to be. I need your help.” True grace isn’t about taking all the failures of the world upon yourself—it’s about taking on your part and leaving the rest in God’s hands.
3. Fix Your Eyes.
Moving away from our failures requires a refocus of our perspective. If we don’t replace our fake grace thoughts with truth, we’ll keep returning to them. Ruminating on failures and trying to “fix” them doesn’t work. Fixing our eyes on Jesus does. We fix our eyes on Jesus by making daily, intentional choices to make space in our heart for him. On the car ride to work, we turn our attention to him instead of to our problems. When we find ourselves returning to ruminate on our issues, we ask God to meet us in our need, to give us his peace. In the book of Hebrews, the author says that “fixing our eyes on Jesus” is linked to throwing off our hindrances and entanglements. Don’t fixate on failures. Fixate on Jesus.
4. Choose Freedom.
When we recognize our failures, we recognize our sin. When we recognize our sin, we recognize our need. We need more than we have for ourselves. We need more love, more forgiveness, more mercy than we could ever provide on our own. This is where we make the choice to follow Jesus into his way. To choose Jesus is to admit that we can’t find the freedom we need on our own. Romans 2:4 says “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.” Repentance literally means a “change of mind.” We fix our eyes on Jesus and our minds on Jesus, and in doing so, we find freedom to be both flawed and confident; both limited and free.
God’s mercy for us is an unending supply. Jesus offers us living water to quench our souls’ great needs. We come to the infinite supply to be refreshed in true grace, and we go back into our lives—into the relationship bumbles, into the disappointments, into the failures—with the gift of life flowing from us.
“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:38).
To read more from the author, Nicole Unice, check out her brand new book from Tyndale Momentum, Brave Enough: Getting over our fears, flaws, and failures to live BOLD and FREE!
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(Photo by Lauren McKinnon)