The MisSpelling Bee

Have you ever been really embarrassed in front of people? I mean by something you said, or something you did?

Experience has taught me that it’s bad to mess up, and worse to do it in front of an audience.

This is the main reason that I hate the Spelling Bee.

The elementary school Spelling Bee is pretty much an involuntary mental inquisition about letters, in front of an assembling of every person you know.

When a flame-out is public it’s usually fairly easy to determine if people are laughing “with you” or “at you.”

Normal people don’t enjoy being laughed at.

Compounding this stress is the silent understanding that all but one person on the Spelling Bee stage is eventually going to blow it in front of the crowd.

Standing up there, you are faced with the inevitable countdown to your own extinction.

I clearly remember extinction coming to me in the first round of the 6th grade spelling bee.

You know what word I got out on? Kleenex.

That’s right, Kleenex.

I spelled Kleenex with a “c”:

“C-L-E-E-N-E-X. Cleenex.”

Before you begin publicly mocking me, like the other 6th graders, think about this; there is a “C” in clean, and Kleenex “cleans” your nose, so who is the idiot, a 11 year-old with phonics and reasoning skills far beyond that of a 1940’s era marketing department or a tissue corporation that tried to get cute by using 5 point consonants when 4 pointers were already getting the job done?

Of course this line of thinking, and the esoteric scrabble reference, were completely lost on my neanderthalic classmates.

Everyone laughed.

At me.

The irony is that there had been so much poor spelling, the seats were already pretty full of previous “failures”.

It was really a “Mis-Spelling Bee”.

I sat down, a spelling failure, and vowed never to make my children participate in such barbarism or cruelty.

At the time, quitting seemed like a great solution to my human problems.

Unfortunately, the problem with quitting is that quitting doesn’t guarantee success, it only guarantees failure.

Quitting moves a mistake out of the category of momentary failure and cements it as permanent.

It also doesn’t make it easier to succeed at anything else either.

I may never have failed in a spelling bee after that day, but I did fail at other things:

Kickball, dodgeball, tetherball, baseball, basketball, wiffleball, and even foosball made a failure out of me at one time or another.

From this line of reasoning you might be tempted to think that the thing that makes us successful as human beings is our perseverance- the drive to never quit.

You’d be wrong though.

People persevere in failure all the time, in fact, it’s entirely possible to fail at something no matter how many times you try…

Like trying to use those green toucans in Angry Birds.

I’ve been learning recently that the only thing in my life certain to bring success is God’s grace.

Grace is an amazing concept, laden with beauty and a bittersweet paradox.

Since every human being is flawed in one way or another, we will never achieve sustainable success at a high rate.

With failure levels this high, our perfection is never on the negotiation table of performance.

Even though it is what God demands.

Grace is when you don’t achieve perfection, but the perfection of Jesus Christ is accounted to you anyway…

If you are willing to look at perseverance in a new light.

Spiritually speaking, Grace is what God extends to us when we stop persevering in our own efforts and put our faith in Jesus.

Jesus is perfect. He is 100%… all the time.

When we persevere in our efforts to know him through study, reflection, and open communication, the grace of God fills us, perfects us, and flows from us to others.

That’s the beautiful part.

When we have Jesus in our lives, God forgives our sins because Jesus’ perfection overcomes our inevitable failures.

Jesus is the “K” I switched out.
He’s the humility I forget about.
He’s the truth I can’t live without.

And here’s where the paradox sets in:

This grace-filled success only happens when we quit. When we quit ourselves.

Quitting may cement our human failure, but that moment of surrender also moves us into a new category under the heading of God’s grace.

It’s in that quitting that we humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand, and he, through the power of his Holy Spirit raises us up… through grace.

Our lives are flawed enough that failure is both guaranteed and warranted. Even worse if the fact that an audience is watching and waiting for the inevitable…

Give them what they want,

Fail them,
Then quit yourself,
You’ll find Yourself in God’s hands.

“At the moment of surrender, I folded to my knees, I did not notice the passers-by, And they did not notice me…” -U2

One Response to “The MisSpelling Bee”

  1. Sharon O November 9, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    Another great post to think about. Thanks John oops I mean Jon :o)

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