My Old Dog, Failure


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In my childhood we had a dog named “Failure”.  He followed us from home to home.  Invisible and uninvited never mattered; we always knew he was there.  I don’t see him as often, but he still shows up from time to time.

A long, complicated, multi-generational, father-son story of “insanity” has permitted Failure to stay around.  He may have been a present from Dad; but he got him from my grandpa, who may have inherited him from another Johnson man.

My father was my hero, but he motivated by fear, not by reward.  Dad unleashed Failure to chase me to go faster, longer and harder.  My father and I did not celebrate victories.  Winning or being the best was expected.  We did not forget defeats.  We replayed them again and again, in the name of “learning”.

My father endured a childhood of torment and negativity.  And until late in his life (well, past his child-rearing days), he lived in the shadow of unfulfilled dreams and low self-image.  My dad loved me completely; but his self-loathing was the powerful undercurrent of his fathering approach.  Contentment was absent in his life; so he relentlessly demanded “more” of me.

I learned I was only as good as my last performance.  The demands applied equally to the classroom, athletics, relationships and the courtroom.  I learned Failure was to be avoided at all cost.  He bit; and bit hard!  And so, victory was not a reward.  It was an expectation.

The lessons of the past often scar us deeply.  Our tough exteriors hide our wounds, but the tenderness of the injury remains.  Failure still hasn’t seen his last day.  Unfortunately, he is still around.  At the moment I hear his growl, I’m forced to choose – run from Failure or keep moving toward success?  The direction may be the same, but the motivation for movement changes the journey. 

It is no coincidence God is identified as “our Father”.  I can feel what God feels for me because I am a father and a child.  I can experience the broken-heart of God because I’ve felt disappointment as a parent.  I can feel the love of God; because I have felt the love of my earthly father. 

God wants me to experience success.  He wants my eyes on the path ahead, not looking over my shoulder towards the haunting sounds of Failure barking. When I stop looking forward, I stop moving away from the past.  When I’m looking back, but trying to move forward; I’ll never see the obstacles in my way. 

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I wish I could say Failure was dead.  He still growls, but it’s just not as terrifying.  He still bites, but his old teeth are dulled.  I know he needs to be put down.  My lack of faith keeps him chained up in the backyard.  He’s been a part of my life so long; he’s part enemy, part old friend.  One of these days, I’ll finally put him out of my misery.  For now, I’ll leave him home while I go take on the day.

  For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.  2 Timothy 1:7




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