Failure

As a student, I believed I failed any time I didn’t make 100 on a test.

Perfectionists are hard on themselves.

By the time I got to the CPA exam though, in my twenties, I had seen the error of my ways and was thrilled to simply pass, never mind a perfect score.  My definition of failure changed.  It no longer meant missing the bull’s eye by a hair; it now meant missing the entire target.

I expected that would never happen to me.

Health problems caused me to do an intense study of nutrition and alternative medicine, so in my forties, armed with a Doctor of Naturopathy degree, I decided to pursue a profession that I expected to do more for my community than any of my accounting skills.  I opened an office, with my name, Karen H. Curran, ND, on the sign, along with the names of the massage therapists and aesthetician sharing the space.  We were housed in a small green house that went by the name Tranquil Gardens, conjuring images of peace, health and hope.  It was here I intended to impact the world with life-changing information.

My desk was a simple piece of glass supported by two pedestals.  Nearby shelves housed my extensive library of reference books, as well as nutritional supplements available for sale.  I diffused calming essential oils and decorated with peace lilies and a desktop water fountain.  Tranquil Gardens was in a part of town where old residences were quickly being converted to business/office use.  With the aged hardwood floors, stylish desk and faux finish on the walls, my office was chic and inviting.

Who wouldn’t want to visit?

I made real efforts at marketing myself, printing business cards and fliers, and visiting near-by chiropractors to encourage client referrals.  There were no other naturopaths in town, so I was somewhat of a novelty.  A reporter even interviewed me, but since I never read about myself in the local paper, I assume I did not impress.

Perhaps I should have taken that as a sign.

I knew, however, that I was following the path God had planned for me.

I had previously done battle with arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome and breast cancer and, having recovered from all of those things, believed that God had given me knowledge to share.  When the office space became available, George and I set the dollar amount we were willing to risk and jumped in.

Many of my clients were people who booked a spa day, spending hours at Tranquil Gardens for a massage, facial, and nutritional consultation.  My difficulty was in charging for my consultations.  When clients finished their massages and facials, they had something to show for it.  Their muscles and skin had been treated and reinvigorated; they felt, and smelled, fresh and clean because of the essential oils and lotions used.

With me, however, they talked about eating habits and health concerns, while I simply suggested changes they could make.  They left my office physically unchanged.  True, they carried a bit more information in their brains, but the information I shared seemed so obvious and logical to me that I had difficulty understanding why they didn’t already know it.  And if they already knew it, how could I charge them for our discussion?

When I look back, I see that I was the illogical one.  I had spent years studying things most others had not, so why would they know what I knew?

I should have been able to make money selling my Nature’s Sunshine products.  My personal experience and research had shown me that the supplements I sold were some of the best on the market, but I made little effort to convince my clients.  I didn’t want them to think I was suggesting products simply to make money, rather than recommending what their bodies needed.

Obviously not cut out for a career in sales.

But neither was I cut out for running my own business.

I had rent to pay at Tranquil Gardens and couldn’t pay that rent without making the money to do so.  Oh sure, George and I had pulled some money out of savings, but that ran out after a few months, and then I had no choice but to close my office.  I tried to operate my business from home, but the dining room was not an ideal location for meeting with clients.  My inventory of supplements sat and sat.  In fact, I still have some of them on hand and it’s been…hmmm…let me count…thirteen years since my failure.

And that’s what it was.  A huge failure.

It was actually quite devastating for me.  I had believed with all my heart that I was God-led in this endeavor, so how could I have possibly failed?

With many years to think and pray about this question, I have come to the realization that God calling you to something doesn’t necessarily mean that He has called you to it long-term.  I.e., He can call you to something for only a season, as is expressed so clearly in His Word:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.  (Ecclesiastes 3:1 KJV)

I fully believe it was God’s intention for me to undertake the study of natural health, just as I believe it was His intention for me to open an office.

Did God intend for me to fail, as well?  I’m still cloudy on that question, but it’s possible He wanted me to learn humility through failure.  There is also the possibility that I was not a good steward of what He had provided.  Maybe, e.g., I didn’t spend enough time at the office, wasn’t aggressive enough in marketing myself, or just needed to give it more time, instead of allowing only a very conservative three months for my business to take flight.

I don’t know the answer, nor do I need to.  God is sovereign, above all and in all.  He accomplishes His purposes one way or another and He uses everything for our good and for His glory.

I trust that.  I trust Him, the Lover of my soul.

And that is enough.

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