Failure is a word I know well. As a boy, I struggled in sports, and while I was not the last picked at recess, I was certainly not the first. By High School, my dreams of playing in the NBA were abandoned after a couple of seasons of riding the bench on the “B” team. As an adult, I coached my children’s football team to a 1-win season and a basketball team to a season with no victories. Those are just a few examples of my complete lack of success.
Recently I revisited these thoughts while sitting in a tree stand deer hunting. If you are not familiar with the Midwest, people here will hunt whitetail deer for fun and food. This year I took my third son Dakota with me on my adventures, and we had high hopes of shooting a nice buck. We sat together during the 10-day gun season and were unable to complete the task of shooting a trophy for his wall. Then at Christmas, we hunted during another 10-day season with a muzzleloader. Once again, we failed to complete the mission.
On one of the final days of sitting and waiting with nothing in view, my mind began to bemoan our failure in a prayer to God. It was in that moment that I heard God speak to me in my inner spirit. The thoughts were clear and penetrating. “How do I define success? Is having a successful hunt about getting another deer, a set of antlers for the wall and a picture on my phone? If that is how I define success, then I am a failure. But if I look at it from a different angle, you might find another perspective.”
While sitting there, I started to flip my thinking about this whole experience. Over these two 10-day seasons I was able to spend numerous hours with my son. We rose early and talked on the way to the woods. We sat together and shared a few laughs. Some encounters went beyond our normal routine with various wildlife. For a few hours every day, we both put down our phones and enjoyed the world God has created for us.
My thinking continued, every time I have encountered a seeming failure, I could look at it another way and find it a huge success. I dropped out of sports in high school and spent those years with my dad hunting and fishing. Those losing sports seasons created memories my family still talks about today. The moments in life when I feel like a loser, I could also see as a success from a different vantage point.
I know the same is true for your life. Those times when life seems to beat you down, there is probably something great happening that we are missing. We get so focused on our concept of success that we miss the little joys God gives us on this journey.
So Dakota and I never did get a big deer together, and I am one hundred percent happy with it. In fact, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I could have a deer, or I could have more time with the people I love. I think the latter of the two is a more significant success.