Your Identity Is Not Failure

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About a month ago, I tore a ligament in my knee. Most people who have this injury, get it playing sports. I managed to do it while walking indoors, on carpet. After a trip to the ER my leg was put in an immobilizer, then a very expensive brace I nicknamed the Robot Knee. I was on crutches and heavy painkillers. I could not drive. It took me ten minutes to walk from my kitchen into the living room. Everything took forever and I was not happy about it.

In the weeks that followed I learned two things about myself: I have very little patience for myself and wow, do I hate asking for help. I expected to feel better in a week. Well, honestly, I expected to take two days off work, pass a pretty chill weekend at home and be back in the office good as new first thing Monday morning. My body had other plans.

Monday morning came and I was functional, mostly, but I needed a lot of help.

I had to ask for a ride to work. I had to ask for help doing certain parts of my job. I was incapable of walking across campus and when I did walk, I moved slower than the seniors I work with. I had to ask for help a lot and I resisted it at every turn. Every single person I asked for help said yes, but I still hated asking, every single time.

It’s a little too on the nose to experience a period of waiting during Advent, but that’s what happened to me. Going slow was my only option. I was stuck in a holding pattern. It didn’t matter that it was late November and I had a thousand things I needed to do to get ready for Christmas. You can’t rush a recovery.

In the middle of a slow, slow day I was listening to carols and a line from “O Holy Night” struck me in a way that it hadn’t before. “Long lay the world …” I often skip over those lines in the song and get to the much more interesting “a thrill of hope” part. But it doesn’t work that way. Long before hope arrived, there was a lot of waiting.

The whole world was waiting and aching and longing for something different. They needed something that would be a game changer. As I look back on 2018, this feeling of longing for the world to shift is very familiar. This year I finally found the permanent work I was looking for. I’ve landed somewhere wonderful, but it was a long, long road to get here.

For more than three years I pieced together part time work and freelance work while knocking on every door I could find. It was awful. I started to doubt my skills and experience. I started to believe all the dark thoughts that gather in my head when I’m not doing well. I felt like I was failing at finding good work and I took it on as an identity. I wasn’t just failing; I was a failure.

It is incredible easy to take on failure as an identity. When a marriage ends or a business folds, when we don’t live up to our own plans and expectations or keep making the same mistake it is so, so easy to label ourselves as failures. But that is not who we are.

In my situation it was easy to convince myself that I was lost and God had forgotten about me and everything would be awful forever. I forgot that hope has already stepped into the story. This long season of Advent waiting points us to the main event—Emmanuel, God with Us. Jesus showed up and changed everything. Christmas reminds us that the wait is over, even though we are still waiting. Hope came down and walked among us.

The working out of that is still to come and for some of us, it’s a long wait. But I want you to know that in your waiting there is hope. In your waiting there is redemption, there is restoration. And this is not where the story ends.

Whether you’re waiting for work or for love or for healing or for peace, know that God is with you in your waiting. God has not forgotten about you. Hope is already here. The gift has already been given; the promise has already been fulfilled.

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Claire Colvin
Claire is learning to call herself a feminist. She has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade. In 2013, her National Novel Writing Month entry was a science fiction story about a broken world where everyone was required to be as similar as possible. Claire wishes she could fold the world like a map so the people she loves weren’t so far away. She lives on a small mountain near Vancouver and writes at clairecolvin.ca.
Claire Colvin
Claire Colvin