I think most people lie when asked what their greatest fear is. I know I do. If you ask me what my biggest fear is I will probably answer bridges or fire. They are somewhat honest answers. I don’t like bridges, and I can’t handle people playing with matches and fire. But I still drive over bridges when necessary and I still light candles in my house. Those aren’t really my biggest fear.
The real answer- I have always struggled with a fear of failure. I don’t like getting things wrong. I wasn’t happy with less than an “A” in high school and maintained a high GPA in college as well. And it goes beyond that into adulthood as well. I like to be able to predict my husbands needs, to have our family outings planned for what we will need, to be able to pull off an event without any major glitches. Oddly enough, I would not call myself a perfectionist. I would define my fear of failure by saying that I like to feel like my hard work ends in success. I want to know my time and energy wasn’t wasted.
When I was sixteen-years-old I failed in my first attempt at getting my driver’s license. I didn’t handle it well. All of my other friends got theirs on their first attempt as soon as possible. So I lied. I pretended I hadn’t even taken the test yet, acted like it wasn’t a big deal to me at all. It took me a long time to even get behind the wheel and drive again and then an even longer time to reschedule the test. I could not handle the fact that I had not succeeded and found it impossible to admit that fact to others. By the time I did take the test again, I was much more prepared and passed the test just fine. When I told people I passed the test, I just acted like it was the first time I had taken it.
Now I am 31 and in the same position again. I moved to a new country and must learn to drive again. Over the past year, I have been in the process of “getting everything right”. I studied hard and passed the written test with no problems. Then the complications started. The test center was backed up for the driving test portion of the test. I had to schedule our test 4 months in advance. Already this made my timing a bit sketchy with a baby due in 6 months at that time. Then came the driving lessons. All month long leading up to the test I have been throwing our regular family schedule off with 2-hour lessons sprinkled all over the calendar. At the last minute they changed my test to the end of September, which was not possible with a baby due in the middle of September, and I got it switched around, but ended up with a date that was as close to my due date as I felt comfortable with. Meaning it was pass or wait until after recovery to try again. All of these details are simply to say, when I took the exam, I wanted to know that it was all worth it; that all the sacrifice and hard work that I had put in the past month ended in success.
As the test drew closer and my lessons progressed, I felt more and more comfortable with all the maneuvers and being able to do everything correctly. I was gaining confidence and knowledge and felt like I should be able to pass. I prayed that God would give me a calmness and a confidence as I drove and I knew I was capable of passing.
Still the night before as I was having trouble sleeping, I told Brian: When I was 16 I failed my driving test and I didn’t handle the failure well. I can’t shake the feeling that He might give me a second chance to do better with the failure this time around.
At the end of a 40-minute drive I had the examiner tell me I was a brilliant driver, one of the best he’s ever taken on a test. He handed me an almost empty report. There were 2 small marks on the entire sheet: 1 minor (you are allowed up to 15) and 1 serious — an automatic fail. The serious fault didn’t cause any danger to anyone and it would be tempting to call it silly, but rules are rules and I had committed the error and had failed the test.
I didn’t want that result, I wanted to know all my hard work had been worth it — that it ended with success. But “fail” was exactly the result I got. And even if I don’t like it, I can’t help but know it’s exactly the result God wanted me to have. I should have passed the test, I’m a good driver, but I didn’t. Why? The obvious answer is that I made an error while driving. But the bigger answer, the one my heart is screaming in the hours since failing — Because God’s plan is bigger than my plan.
I have told God that with a baby coming in 6 weeks, I HAD to pass right now. I told him this was the best timing. I told him that this was the only way I could justify all the practice lessons and all the money we had spent setting this up. And He responded with, “I know better than you. Trust me.”
So I am trusting Him this time around. I trusted Him enough to immediately confide my failure in a few close friends. I was able to say, I failed, and I don’t handle failure well. God was able to use them to speak truth into my life before lies could root their way in. I am trusting Him with the timing of working in another exam and having a baby. And maybe most of all, I am trusting Him that while using my example of a seemingly small driving exam, I am stepping out of that grip that fear of failure has on my life.
That’s what trusting God is all about: taking the steps that might seem small to others, maybe even small to us at the time, but knowing that it is leading somewhere far greater than where I am now.
I have been given a second chance in dealing with my failure, and I don’t want to blow it. I want to trust God with His plan and His timing this time around. And I can’t help but wonder if, just maybe, someone else out there needs to do the same.