Reframing failure

picture of brandy snap recipe
I didn’t take a photo of the actual dessert but it looked just as appetising as this.

It was Moz’s turn to make dinner on Sunday. He got bored through the afternoon and decided to make us brandy snap bowls for dessert. I’m very happy with him being bored. He should be bored more often.

He used a recipe from a very fancy dessert recipe book that I was given one Christmas. I love the book because it also has the recipe for crumpets in it and I had always wanted to know how to make them. Everything in the book is fancy, or is at least presented as being fancy.

Moz changed the recipe because he used up the end of our golden syrup bottle and didn’t find the new bottle that was hiding in the pantry. So as well as golden syrup he used honey and strawberry syrup. I tell you, they were delicious brandy snaps. Really yummy.

They reminded me of one of the big failures in my life.

Way back when we were training as missionaries with YWAM we were living in a house with 14 people. One of the members of our household was leaving so we threw them a party. I was in charge of the food. (I realise now that this was a bad idea.)

I decided to make shortbread, which is something I can make quite well. The problem was that the kitchen scales in our very poor household just didn’t work. If you placed the butter on them lightly they didn’t register the weight at all. If you slammed the butter on then they registered a lot of weight – much more than was actually there.

I hadn’t done a lot of baking at this point so I just did the best I could. It turns out that I put in way waaaaay more butter than these shortbread biscuits needed. When I checked them in the oven they had spread out and covered the biscuit tray. They were wafer thin, and bubbling.

I couldn’t cope. I just ran upstairs to my room and cried. But Moz coped. He got the bubbling ‘biscuits’ out of the oven and scraped them off the pan. He wrapped each one around the handle of a broom and made them into brandy snaps. We filled them with cream or custard (I can’t quite remember) and served them to the party.

And that’s where I learned something about failure.

‘Who made the brandy snaps?’

‘Can I have the recipe for these brandy snaps?’

‘Oooh Ruth, these are yummy!’

Crazy.

Sometimes our failures can turn out to be great successes. As shortbread biscuits the baking was a complete and utter failure, but as brandy snaps an outrageous success.

I don’t like failing very much.

Ok, I don’t like failing at all.

But I’m learning to reframe failure. Learning to look at each attempt as an experiment. Learning to learn from the failure and maybe to turn it around and make it a successful ‘something else’.

When my kids were small, like all kids, they would give me their drawings. I learned a lot from that as well. The drawings were not perfect. Heck, they weren’t recognisable as anything. But I loved the drawings. I cherished them. I kept them. I still have a selection stored with my other memorabilia.

Until then, I couldn’t really see how my pitiful attempts would be worth anything to anyone. But looking at my children’s pictures I could see how God looks at our attempts, our tries, and loves us for them. Even if they don’t live up to our own ideas of perfection. Even if they fall short by a long way. Just the fact that we have tried means something. Means everything.

One of my very favourite of all time books is The Rosemary Tree by Elizabeth Goudge. One of her characters tries hard to help people, but fails often and is very aware of his failures. But we the readers (with our omnipotent point of view) get to see how everything he thinks of as a failure is actually a success from a different point of view.

Reading that book helped me see that I don’t know the big picture and that I need to sometimes not worry about the outcomes of my actions and trust that God has it under control.

So failure. How do I cope with it?

I probably still head to the bedroom to cry for a while. But I am trying to give much more weight to the fact that I made an attempt at all.

And I’m trying to learn everything I can from the failure.

And, finally, I’m realising that sometimes it is possible to turn failed shortbread into successful brandy snaps.

How about you? Do you have a failure that ended up being a success? How do you cope when things seem to have gone completely wrong?

 

4 thoughts on “Reframing failure

  1. Hi Ruth, My most difficult failure was my first marriage. It took along time to get over the hurts. Today I realize it was also my greatest achievement. I have two wonderful sons and along with their great choices in wives and the amazing grandchildren they have produced, I can no longer see my divorce as a failure but rather it is the best thing that ever happened to me.

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