A couple years ago, I made the decision to take a risk and set up a retreat in South Carolina, where I had never been and had no connections. (Why pick South Carolina if you didn’t know anyone, a person with a brain might ask. Because there are over eighty women in one of my private Facebook groups who live in that area and I mistakenly thought I had a built-in audience.)
I’ve done retreats before. I’ve been flown out several places and I even organized a retreat in Wisconsin when I also didn’t know anyone out that way.
But I knew this was different because I knew I’d be underwriting the whole thing and would need plane tickets, a pretty hefty expense to lose if I had to cancel the retreat.
I had prayed about it. I had thought about it. My husband and I had talked about it.
I felt no check in my spirit from God to not move forward. In fact, though it was risky for sure, I felt excited about it. So I did all the things one does when they plan a retreat (prayed, booked a location, a hotel room, a rental car, plane tickets, prayed some more, promoted the crud out of it, prayed some more).
Four registrations rolled in on the first day and I high-fived my husband with each one.
Then, not so much. Tumbleweeds rolled through my event page. I could hear crickets when I logged on.
So, I promoted more and prayed more. I didn’t back down. (I tend not to back down. I’m the girl who ran for class vice president all four years of high school and never won once. I’m the girl who had fifty-two rejections for her first book before it being picked up by a publisher.)
And I don’t give up.
But then, weeks later, with only a couple weeks to go, still only four had signed up. I kept praying. I kept promoting. I kept begging telling gently asking people to please sign up. Still only four.
I knew what I needed to do. I knew I needed to cancel. But I was a bit stuck in shame.
You see, I’m the girl who doesn’t give up, right? Yeah, but I’m the girl who doesn’t give up despite massive rejection. I don’t always take the hint. I’m the girl who hosts parties (like Trades of Hope or whatnot) and almost no one comes.
So, it felt a bit rejectiony to know that only four women wanted to come. I know, I know…scheduling and childcare and money, etc. My mind understands that. My heart, however, wasn’t looking at it that way.
So, I did the hard, sad thing and I cancelled. And I reimbursed everyone. And I let the scholarship-givers know that I’d be sending their money back (all of them told me to keep it, blesstheirhearts). And I cancelled the retreat center. And I cancelled our ride to the airport. And I cancelled our rental car. And I cancelled our hotel (lost our deposit). And I cancelled our plane tickets (potentially $956 out the window…excuse me for a moment while I go throw up).
Now, the old Beth would consider this a failure and would be beating herself up for days.
Of course “if you build it” they will not come, you’re a nobody.
What were you thinking spending that kind of money when you don’t have it?
That’s what you get for plowing ahead without clear leading from God.
Okay, so, yes. We’re taking a huge financial hit. And it stings. And I’m upset.
But I’m refusing to count this as a failure because:
I had prayed about it and I took the lack of anxiety and the increasing excitement as a sign to push forward.
I was trying to do something for God.
I was trying to do something good.
I was trying to do something of value.
I was trying to help women become more whole and holy.
Listen, just because something you tried doesn’t work out the way you wanted or even prayed for doesn’t make it a failure. And it for sure doesn’t make YOU a failure.
So, when something doesn’t happen that you had prayed hard would happen, what do you do? You can give up, sure, or you can keep going. I pick keep going. I will keep moving forward in my ministry. I will keep speaking. I will keep leading retreats. I will keep planning retreats (just not where I have to pay for myself to fly there). I will not let this get me down. I will not let this throw me. I will keep moving forward. I will keep moving forward. I will keep moving forward.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. -Galatians 6:9
If you’d like to talk with me about holding a retreat in your area, go here. Let’s do this!
Putting oneself ‘out there’ is always a ‘risk’, and we are constantly engaged in negotiating ‘risk’ in every part of our lives. How we interpret the outcome is critical to this negotiation, for if we take a risk – in relationships, in parenting, in friendships, in employment – and the outcome is not what we expected, anticipated or desired – our vulnerable selves (that we put ‘out there’ in risking) can take an emotional beating. We’re rejected (thus ‘rejectable’), irrelevant, stupid, unworthy (of love, acceptance, etc.). Our critical analysis of the situation often is just an exercise in critically analyzing our self (i.e., ‘I suck’ at everything). And, if you have a spouse like mine, he will readily join in and fuel this ‘final’ analysis (i.e., ‘Yes, you DO suck’ at everything).
However, this final analysis hides so many variables and influencing conditions that come to bear on how ‘life’ unfolds. To illustrate, I recently applied for a position that I ticked ALL the boxes for. My CV is thick with line after line that demonstrated that I was the BEST candidate. My interview was stellar, the timing in my life was ‘perfect’, and it was EXACTLY what I had planned for, gone to school for, and worked towards. I believed that God had created this pathway and that I could SEE His plan unfolding.
I didn’t get the job. They hired a man, a few years younger than me, with less experience, and no directly related qualifications. I was (am still at times, devastated).
This experience taught me that it is a bit arrogant to think that I could SEE God’s plan for my life. I’m still learning this lesson as I often fall into trying to determine the pathway forward by spending a lot of mind-time mapping the past (i.e., ‘How’d I get HERE?’). It also reminded me that there are other issues at play in how life unfolds (e.g., Yes, I shouldn’t be surprised that a man would win the competition over a woman, even though it is 2018.), and that others’ decisions, hearts, minds, relationships, are all woven into the plan. It is this complexity that God can manage and direct (and that I’ll never fully appreciate or understand).
And so, like you, I move forward in faith, trusting that I’m on His path, and trying not to map the outcome.
Patti, first of all, I am so very sorry you didn’t get that job. But I am so proud of you for – even in your devastation – choosing to move forward.
Bless you. I admire your vulnerability.
Tha k you. I sooo needed this right now. God has called me to something difficult for a person with adhd and menopausal brain fog. I feel like a failure all the time, every day.
Oh Alora, I’m so sorry. I’m proud of you for continuing to follow what you feel God is calling you to.