Don’t Park Behind Me: A Lesson in Failure

man in parking garage looking down
Instead of trying to avoid inevitable failure, maybe it would be better to learn the right way to handle it. Here are some ideas to get us started.

One of my hidden talents is backing into things while driving.

On my side of town there is a square of old houses that have been turned into shops and restaurants. As many parking spaces as possible have been squeezed into that parking lot, and cars still line the nearby residential streets.

One day I confidently pulled into the easiest parking space I saw. It wasn’t a typical parking space, though – it was one of those extra ones they squeezed in. Instead of pulling in next to another car, I pulled in behind one. My parking space and the one in front of me were parallel to the buildings and the other parking spaces. There were more cars parked a little behind me.

Later, as I was leaving, I put the vehicle in reverse and started slowly backing up. Very slowly.

I inched backward until I felt a little bump. I braked fast. I knew I couldn’t have gone back far enough to hit the cars, but I hadn’t seen anything else. I put the vehicle in park and went back to look.

Right there, in my blind spot, was a motorcycle. A motorcycle I had just backed into.

Hope for failures

If anyone were going to back into a motorcycle, it would be me. I’ve backed into a trash can, my brother’s car (twice), and a huge pile of dirt (while driving my brother’s car). I’m pretty sure I hold the family record for number of scratches put on vehicles.

But all that was years ago, and I’ve since grown out of my driving-in-reverse difficulties. Or so I thought.

My frustration with my own shortcomings has less to do with my failures and more to do with my tendency to repeat them. How am I still struggling with fear? Why do I keep getting angry so easily? Why can’t I check my mirrors more thoroughly?

As Christians, we know that one central theme of the gospel is that when it comes to living righteously before God, we have failed miserably. Once we become part of God’s family and our sanctification journey begins, we continue to fail. Sometimes we fail a lot at the same thing.

This is where I get frustrated. Why can’t I just stop? Why can’t I fix the wrong things I do when I know I’m doing things wrong?

The older I get – and I’m still in my 20s – the more I see that life isn’t about getting all our ducks in a row or doing everything just right. God calls us to follow Him, and that journey will be full of challenges and a few failures.

But because Jesus has redeemed us, our failures don’t define us anymore. “His mercies…are new every morning,” Jeremiah wrote.

Next time I fail…

Instead of trying to avoid inevitable failure, maybe it would be better to learn the right way to handle it. Here are some ideas to get us started.

When appropriate, confess or repent of your failure.

Mistakes happen. There is no need to beat ourselves up over simple mistakes; we’re human. However, some of our mistakes are more accurately called sins. In those cases, we should realize the seriousness of sin and take steps to apologize to any we have wronged — and then right the wrong if we’re able. Then we must also remember that God knows the sin of our hearts, and Jesus paid for all of it. Jesus told us to forgive our brother 70 x 7 times. We can trust He will do the same for us.

Take steps to grow and change.

Maybe we need to slow down and think before we speak or act. Maybe we need accountability. Maybe we just need to walk around the vehicle before driving in reverse.

Move on.

It happened. We’re not perfect, but we’ve taken steps to make it right. Now it’s time to live on and leave our successes and failures in God’s hands.

Learning through failures

Backing into a motorcycle was a new low for my driving difficulties.

In my defense, it was partially because of that wonky parking lot design. When I had pulled into my parallel parking spot, the motorcycle wasn’t there. I hadn’t noticed the potential for a motorcycle to be parked there at some point.

Thankfully, the motorcycle seemed virtually unscathed.

I took a couple photos, then followed my dad’s advice and wrote a quick note with my phone number. I spent the next several minutes trying to figure out how to attach a note to a motorcycle in Kansas wind.

Then I left — confident I’d done what I needed to do, a little worried about who might call me, and humbled that I am still a champion of backing into things.

I did what I could, and I’m learning to trust God to take care of the rest.

Because learning to live by trust is hardly a failure.

Copyright 2019 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Lauren Dunn
Lauren Dunn

Lauren Dunn is a writer and toddler teacher, and she blogs at These Traveling Days. She loves to read books that are so good they make her want to crawl into their stories, and she can never have enough of her favorite Pixar movies or chocolate chip cookie dough.

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