Failing Upwards

I sat at my desk and blew a pesky strand of hair out of my eyes. My cheeks were heated and I looked carefully in the reflection of my computer monitor to see if Audrey could see me. She was sitting at her desk, competent, proper, all-knowing, and all-seeing. So I resisted the urge to allow my head to sink to my desk. How could my head feel so heavy and yet be so infernally empty of anything useful?!

The UPS guy had just left, witness to my failure as well, and I tried to not think about how perfectly timed everything was. Literally anyone that could have been there, had been there. Even the UPS guy. Nice guy, by the way, plays water-polo on the weekends, brings me organic snacks...

I sighed heavily again. Justin came out of his office and just looked at me.


“You’ll need to delete that submittal, edit the cover letter again before reassembling it and submitting it to me for review.”

I must have looked very forlorn because he chuckled and shook his head as he re-entered his office.

“You’ll get it soon, Eliza.” He called from his inner sanctum.
“What if I don’t?” I finally wailed, after moments of fearfully and silently considering. Another chuckle issued forth from his open door.
Perhaps the UPS guy hadn’t noticed that Justin had been scolding me for my abysmal

submittal assembly... I clasped that hope to my heart but then slumped. It had not been missed by Audrey. She was a silent, observant witness.

“Failing upward, Eliza.” Came from the wise inhabitant of that office.

I almost dissolved into tears. He couldn’t know that failure had been characterizing my life recently, and not just my professional life. Getting up in the morning was a challenge anymore. It seemed that the more I failed, the more I failed. Where was God? Why wasn’t He helping me? I ignored the little nudge of conscience, telling me that I was the one making my impulsive, self-serving choices, not God.

I survived the day and went home, shutting the door of my room and falling face-down into my fluffy white bedspread that remained rumpled and unmade from my morning wake-up trial. I stayed that way, my eyes closed. I opened them after many moments and they rested on my bookshelf. I saw journals of by-gone days. The cracked binding of my older journals telling the use and days they had seen.

I rose with effort and sat in front of the shelf, pulling a random journal towards me. I opened it and the pages seemed to contain a whiff of summer and triumphant days. Prayers answered, Bible passages studied... I flipped listlessly until I noticed a theme.

My eyes started to focus on sentences. “What am I doing?” “Where are you, Lord?” “Today I failed again.”

I laughed out loud. I was relating hard-core to my past self.

I read and read, my heart connecting with the despair I found there. Until... after each dark time came a crucible moment. A lesson learned. Victory.

“Failing upward, Eliza.”

I heard my brother’s voice and smiled. He was right. No trial is without a reason and a lesson. There would be another side of this. There would be a moment where the light would dawn and the suffering would all make sense. I was reminded of a verse.

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”Romans 5:3-5

I felt that hope. This was my moment of tribulation. Whether I was fighting persecution or the sin of my own heart, I had been through this valley before. In the end there would be my mountain with my Lord, perhaps it was right now. Perhaps this moment was the moment He had been waiting for, still and quiet in the privacy of my room, remembering His past works in my life.

So more glory to God. Another victory and even more love to Him for His wisdom and goodness in my life. Love that I was going to have stored in my heart, just waiting for those other discouraged ones, those that need this love too.

I closed the old journal and reached for my current one. I wrote carefully what God had done. How He had once again taught me another lesson. Just like the soil a flower springs up out of is composed of the trial of an earlier flower, the painful death of my self-love would be the ground out of which His love would spring. Was I closer to Him than I was then? Maybe not. I do know that I was closer to the image He was seeking to work in me. Every failure is in His hand. I might go lower in my despair and see even more the darkness of my rebellion but I have this hope, that though I fail, I do not fail without purpose. I fail ever upwards.


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