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Success and Do Overs

When you have more days behind you than you do ahead of you, it’s not unusual to look back and ask, Did I make a difference? Was it worth it?


Whatever it is—your job, your ministry, or perhaps your marriage—the question that eventually bubbles to the surface is Would I do it all over again?


If we answer yes, most of us probably would attempt to qualify our answer.


Well, yes, but hopefully with fewer mistakes.


Uh, yeah I’d do it all over again, but can I avoid the stupid stuff?


Of course, we can’t rewrite history, but hopefully, we can learn from it.


On Sunday, January 6, the church I pastor (Eastpoint) celebrated its sixteenth birthday. I’ve been thinking a lot about our history and what I’ve learned. When we started back in 2003, I was a much younger (just 45), healthier (running marathons), skinnier (by about 20 pounds), and a far less wise pastor.


Nonetheless, God is so faithful. Yes, it's been an amazing and wild ride, and the journey involved both the good and the painful at times.


God is far better to me than I deserve. Yet life is a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s just that way on this side of eternity.


Understanding that reality is critical to our survival. Why? Because those who expect a perfect and pain-free life are set up for bitter disappointment. However, those who embrace the “mix” not only survive but also learn how to thrive in the storm.


Yes, if I could do my life all over again, I would.


I like to think it would be with fewer mistakes and a lot less pain. However, I’ve come to realize that my mistakes and struggles have carved me and shaped me more than my successes.


Of course, I never encourage anyone to make a mistake intentionally. We should avoid bad decisions as much as possible and should live wisely. But have you noticed how our struggles—often birthed out of our mistakes and failures—hold the potential to teach us and to help us grow?


When life is good and things are easy, we tend not to grow as much as we do when things are hard.



So, I’m relearning some things about how to embrace my mistakes and how to define true success.


  • Success is not victory after victory and living without failures. Success is staying the course no matter what.


  • Success is staying faithful to your God-given purpose and calling even when it’s tough to do so.


  • Success is not quitting when it would be easy to quit. 


  • Success is choosing to learn from whatever happens—especially the hard stuff.


  • Success is, as Eugene Peterson once said, “A long obedience in the same direction.”


As you walk into this new year, one guaranteed to present new challenges, do so with a commitment to grow. Do so with confidence in the One who promises to walk with you every step along the way.


Keep learning. Keep growing. Never give up. Make 2019 the best year ever. But always remember, best doesn’t necessarily mean easy or mistake-free.


And that’s okay.


Kurt Bubna

Kurt W. Bubna has published seven books, is an internationally recognized blogger, conference and retreat speaker, as well as an experienced life and leadership coach. Bubna has over forty years of experience working with individuals, teams, and a wide variety of business and non-profit organizations.