He Let Me Fail

A mini-chapter in gratitude. This chapter will be more meaningful if you have read my depression story.

My peers had been excused from the room. I was left sitting in front of three college professors. Tears slipped down my nose as I tried to compose myself.

This was the day at the end of each semester when we brought in our teacher work sample, a project into which if done right, we had poured all of our energy and many, many hours throughout the last few months.

Before presenting our projects, we sat with 3-4 other students from the teaching program and discussed in front of a panel of our professors what we had learned from our experience practicing in classrooms this semester.

Truth be told, while this kind of "activity" would cause a lot of people anxiety, I actually really enjoyed it. Most of us really enjoyed it. We were teachers at heart and almost teachers with a degree. Speaking and presenting had long lost the intimidation factor.

Today was different from the other semesters. I had made it through the question and answer period all right, but one by one as my fellow teaching students presented their projects, I shuddered to think what the next few minutes were going to bring. I was stepping into completely uncharted territory. This was definitely going to be a first.


A year earlier, I had called off the engagement just as I finished the semester. A strange and terrifying summer had followed. After the suicide notes had been destroyed and I had returned safely from my "outing" into the mountains, it was time to start thinking about getting ready for school again in August. It seemed like a joke. I was far from okay, but my parents were lovingly adamant that I would not continue to spend the unforeseeable future crawled up in a ball in my bedroom day and night.

What upset me the most was that who-I-was-now was going to go up and destroy all the work who-I-once-was had done. I had the blessing of a couple semesters of a four-year full-ride scholarship left which was all mine unless my grades dipped below a B-average level. Who-I-once-was loved school, thrived in school, and had since 1st grade (I skipped Kindergarten). Who-I-was-now was totally apathetic. 

 I put it off as long as possible til one day, about a week before school started, my mom sat next to me and said we would leave the couch as soon as I was registered. This was the semester that I was supposed to be wrapping up my minor in Spanish. I registered for my three remaining Spanish classes. 

I had to be enrolled in four classes for my scholarship to apply, so on the first day of class, like a vagrant, I wandered the halls of the social science building, listened to the professors and walked in to the first class I thought I could probably manage, something about communication and family relationships.

Apathy took a backseat to my love for Spanish that semester. Especially Spanish: Phonetics and Phonology. Good grief I gobbled that stuff up. I went to school everyday and felt like I was wearing a mask, like I was fooling my professors, my friends, everyone. I'm stable. I'm healthy. I'm normal. My Spanish classes had about a 10:1 guy/girl ratio due to all the missionaries in the area who learn Spanish on missions. Because I was thriving on this phonetics and phonology stuff, they would often invite themselves over for study groups at my house. How awesome this would be if I were normal. What a shame that I'm a freak, I'd think. What I didn't realize was that my classes had sneaked in the backdoor and were busy instilling a love for life within me again.

I made it through that semester with good grades because of my love for Spanish and because I made a comment about once a class period on communication in family relationships in the social science building. The holidays came and I met Laura. The combination of my good experience at school and the fun I had with Laura made me long to be normal again. I really think this might work, I thought, and registered for my next semester in the education program.


By the time school started in January, I had made a major shift for the better. I had realized the whole going-to-hell thing was a farce and was just now in the process of rewiring my thoughts that had been trained to think in such self-deprecating ways. School helped a lot. Our practice work out in the classrooms helped a lot. 

The hard truth was, though, that the education program required me to operate at top-notch levels when it came to studying and completing projects, and I wasn't prepared to operate at that level.

A large assignment was coming due, and I couldn't wrap my head around it. My healing process was going very, very well, and frankly I was so grateful and so happy, there was no room for panic. The day approached when I was to turn in my assignment. When the professor called for it, I simply just didn't turn anything in. I walked out of the classroom shocked that I was still breathing, that my heart was still beating, in fact, I felt fine. All those years when I wondered what would happen if I didn't turn in an assignment. Well now I knew. The world kept turning.


Similar circumstances played themselves out 2-3 more times in different classes. I was doing the best I knew how and turning in everything I was able to complete, that just wasn't everything I was supposed to have done. One by one I approached my professors and let them know I was recovering from a severe bout with depression. A few of them worked with me and extended my deadlines which I always met because I was so grateful. 

But I just hadn't been able to pull off that major project of the semester. I was to meet with a group of teaching students in front of a panel of my professors and I didn't know what to do. I thought not showing up would probably be the very worst, so I typed up a letter, dressed in my classroom best, and headed up to school. 

We started by sharing our experiences from the elementary school classroom. I'd had many positive ones to talk about. Next, one by one, my peers shared their projects. 

My turn came. I was too nervous to take a deep breath so instead offered a prayer that I wouldn't faint. God was listening. He always had been, but the important thing was that now I knew it. I handed each of my professors a letter. It was an apology for the less-than-stellar work I had produced this semester. It was an explanation that my bout with depression had taken a toll on my ability to complete work in a timely manner. It expressed a hope that as I continued to recover, they would see significant improvement, and that I was willing to do whatever I needed to in the coming weeks to complete the work I hadn't finished to their satisfaction. 

I felt like a rock dropped into my stomach when none of them nodded okay, and the woman professor leading the group asked my fellow classmates to leave the room.


He was not going to let me fail, was He? That wouldn't be good for my recovering mental health. 

A lot of communication went on within the department. Two of my professors were pleased with my efforts to communicate with them throughout the semester. I had turned in all my work, and coupled with their understanding of my circumstances, they felt comfortable letting me pass their classes. I was so grateful for their understanding.

Two of them did not. Oh I resented them. I had done the very best I could with circumstances that were more than I could handle. And it wasn't good enough. I was determined that I wouldn't spend too much mental energy on it. At this point I had reached the understanding that no matter how worthless and low you feel, God has never left the picture. With this fresh in my mind, I knew I would not crumble. But I still resented my professors.

I don't anymore. 

Sometimes compassion steps in, like those first two professors did, and grants us a favor. And it is a blessing. Sometimes life bears down and teaches us a lesson. And we need to experience both. 

He let me fail. And though it took me awhile to realize it, He gave me a tremendous gift.  I know now what failure tastes like.

The question, "What if I fail?" doesn't scare me anymore.

Was it humbling watching my classmates move on to student teaching and graduation while I went back to the college classroom? Yes. Was it hard receiving a letter notifying me of the probation hearing on my status within the education program? Yes.

But did I make it? Yes. I did. With a new powerful life lesson in my tool-belt. 

I can fail. I can pick myself up again. And His love is sure through all of it.