The success lie (on family, failure and faith)

30 July 2012


We are babysitters this weekend, slumber party novices leaving evidence of mildly irresponsible late-night milkshake drinking. Blankets, pillows and swords litter the hallways. Before he heads to work, we cuddle in a very large, very comfortable, very I-don't-ever-want-to-get-up-from-here bed. I feel his chest rise and fall heavily, hear him sigh as he says, "I'm sorry our bed sucks. I'm sorry for all of it."

It takes me a moment to register what he's saying, what he means, how his heart drops in the memory foam of the bed.

We are laying on a big, soft symbol of success. And our pokey, old, free-for-the-taking mattress back home is a symbol of failure. 

We all believe that, don't we? The house, the job, the car out front, the kids in excelled learning, the 401k. These are barometers of a life well done. We work hard for them, make sure they're shiny, take comfort in them and feel successful. This is what we're told we deserve, what we can get it if we try hard enough, what will make us happy and what will keep us secure.

Except, it's a lie. It's a lie we are all too willing to believe. Honestly, it is so much easier to look successful with hard work and money than it is to prove we're successful in quiet prayers and patience.

What is success anyway? How other people see you? How you think you look to the outside world? Does it really matter what Dave Ramsey thinks? Is the interest rate that big of a deal? I don't believe those things influence or determine success. 

My sister is successful not because of her wonderful bed, not because of her athletic kids, not because of the house or picket fence or chocolate lab (though those are all real and fantastic things). She's successful because she and my brother-in-law just celebrated 20 years of marriage. They are successful because of the hard work, time, patience and sacrifice they put into marriage and parenting. They are successful because they come home together, pray together, serve God together, and love their kids together. They are successful because they believe all these things are gifts from above, a life they never imagined, a family based on faith and hope and love.

And us? We haven't failed just because we don't have a house, a backyard, a sturdy retirement account or spotless refinished hardwood floors (though that would all be very nice). We are successful because our kids are happy and we get to spend the majority of almost every day with them. We're successful because we are pursuing something we know God has called us to do. We're successful because at the end of the day, we come home to each other. We're successful because we get to show our kids and our friends and our communities how faithful God is, how He's provided, how He's leading, how He loves. We're successful because we work hard, not for the house and the car payment or the fully vested stock options, but we work hard at prayer and perseverance and obedience.

We're successful because when we fail, it's not over. The failure is never permanent. Mercies are new every morning, and we get to try again. Jesus holds it all together, and it all belongs to Him. 

"Oh, babe, don't say that," I tell him. The house we are staying in is filled with the laughter of our children and their cousins. They are so happy and free. We get to serve my sister and her family on this happy occasion of a 20th wedding anniversary. And I feel so blessed and so thankful for one night of peaceful sleep in a big, comfy bed.

We are a success story... one I can't wait to tell.

What is your success story? I know you have one.


  1. my success story is that I rose from a broken and abusive childhood and worked hard for my home. That I learnt from my mothers mistakes and have a strong marriage to a wonderful man and two amazing children. I feel successful because I made my way through night school with two small children and got my accounting designation and never gave up even when I sobbed over exams and broke my ankles and had a sick baby and the death of a friend right before sitting exams (not all together, just one after the other) and then we emigrated together to a wonderful country - Canada. I feel succesful because I never gave up on my dream of living here despite people telling us we "wanted too much"
    I feel successful because this year we celebrate 10 years of marriage, a relationship thats stronger each day.

    1. That is a brilliant success story. Thank you for sharing! And I know how you feel about a dream of a new country... :)