How to embrace failures with joy

(Photo: Unsplash/FilipMroz)

Recently I was on a school camp with high school students. This was their year-level camp, and part of my role on camp was to teach them how to surf.

Getting fit for the right sized wetsuit, taking boards down to the beach, learning about tips, rides and knowledge on the beach - there's a lot to it.

Then we got into action and surfed!

Catching the Fun

A majority of my time as an instructor was pushing kids onto waves and every so often showing them how to catch a wave and surf, rejoicing with the few students who 'succeeded' in standing up on the waves.

On our return walk to our campsite, I was chatting with the group of students and asked, "Who got to catch a wave?" A few put their hands up. Then I changed my question: "Who didn't catch a wave?" The larger majority put up their hand.

Then I continued on with an additional question "...and who still had loads of fun?!" The group exploded into a cacophony of conversations as students chatted amongst themselves recalling "oh this one wave ... Nearly caught ... got dumped ... nearly ran over me ...," the beaming smiles evidence of an ecstatic time.

Fun Failing?

It got me thinking. These kids just had such a great time failing! Some of them didn't get to the point of standing up on a surfboard riding a wave in, being able to claim they 'surfed'. Yet they all had a great time and learnt so much along the way.

How many times do we put something down if the end result doesn't look like what we were expecting? How often do we give up on the journey if we can see the end product is not what we wanted or where we will end up? How much learning do we lose along the way if this is the case?

The smiles and the beaming emotions of the group were hard to deny that joy, learning and growth had occurred in a super fun way that afternoon - even if it wasn't to the definition of 'surfing'.

The Lessons Learned

Reflecting on the Bible, I can see an array of stories that don't end up 'according to plan', like Jonah, Moses, King David, Jesus - whoever expected the Messiah to be crucified?

Looking through these stories they may look like failures. Yet reading through the Psalms, I think, gives us someone who opens up the journey of life we can follow along with.

The Psalms identify with so many aspects of life. Ups, downs, questions – life! So much rich learning is in there to demonstrate it's not always the end destination we need to attain. Usually, the journey along the way teaches us the greatest lessons.

Next time something crosses your path that isn't going to plan, that doesn't seem to be headed towards the exact perfect outcome you had pictured, ask yourself: is there something to be learned along the journey?