It’s mid-January, the time of year when we begin to hear the phrase “fall off the wagon.” Initially, ‘fall off the water wagon’ referred to carts used to hose down dusty roads in the 1920s, when Prohibition was law. A person “on the wagon” drank water rather than alcoholic beverages. Now falling off the wagon can mean resuming any lousy habit: overeating, Netflix binge-watching, and compulsive online shopping included!
Fast forward 100 years, prohibition is no more, but ditching alcohol is still a thing. Dry January began in 2012 as an initiative by Alcohol Change UK, a British charity, to “ditch the hangover, reduce the waistline and save some serious money by giving up alcohol for 31 days.” Now, 11 years later, more and more Americans seem to be jumping on the wagon and trying out Dry January, giving up drinking any alcohol for the entire month. This article says up to 35% of Americans are now in on this trend.
I don’t know what you gave up this month or didn’t give up. Maybe this year, like me, you felt that making resolutions was just another reminder for you of all the many ways you are not measuring up and of all the potential ways you could fail.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the concept of resolutions: saving money, feeling better, and being healthier are all fantastic! But as much as I always want to have an “onward and upward” mentality, the failures in my life creep up on me now and then.
What if that was ok? What if, instead of only looking forward this year, we spent some time looking backward at our ‘desperate to forget’ failures?
The word remember is found 240 times in the Old and New Testament, and it isn’t just referring to highlight reels and rose-gold memories. God calls us to remember the sucky stuff too. The stuff that didn’t work out, the times things fell flat.
Remember your tough situations that were out of your control.
Then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
Remember your temptations.
1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Remember your mess-ups.
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
So I made a failure resume. I added my resume down below if you want to check it out!
I wrote down my biggest disappointments and failures. Some of them were not my fault, but there’s no room on resumes for excuses, backstories, and what happened. They are short, descriptive, and straightforward.
Having multiple decades between me and the event, I realize those were the precise moments that shaped me. It was in failure when a toxic relationship ended, a career path was blocked, or a personal weakness was exposed and prevented from growing more destructive. God uses the failures in our life as much as the successes. In an upcoming podcast episode of Red Letter Disciple, Neuroscientist Jessie Cruickshank tells us that for true growth to happen in our lives, we ought to be failing about 20% of the time. (For more, check out episode 32 on our website here.) If this is true, then why are we ashamed? Our failures could be the very thing that connects us to someone else.
Susan Cain, in her book Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole, said it this way:
“If we could honor sadness a little more, maybe we could see it—rather than enforced smiles and righteous outrage—as the bridge we need to connect with each other. We could remember that no matter how distasteful we might find someone’s opinions, no matter how radiant, or fierce, someone may appear, they have suffered, or they will.”
Everyone has fallen off their wagon, but have we shown it to people? Have we touted our failures? I doubt.
What if we tried this motto? Transparency in 2023.
That’s a wagon I think I can jump on.
Challenge: Make a failure resume. It could be for 2022 or for the last decade. Or for your whole life. Write them down and then spend some time reflecting on how God used those tough times. Share it with a friend or even on your social media platform. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and privately share a failure and how you are waiting for God to act, or what you have learned in the failure. When you connect your failure with God’s redemption, that, my friend, is your testimony.
And so you will bear testimony to me.