How to Avoid the Most Organic Way to Fail


We didn’t intend to fail, but we did it again.

My husband and I will be spending a long weekend in the garage. No, that’s not our version of being in the “dog house,” but it might as well be.


At least once a year we look at each other and say “it’s time.” Yep, it’s time to tackle the wall-to-wall chaos of the garage. Without fail, we look around and wonder how it ever got so bad. It was practically spotless after we cleaned it out last year. But, here we are, facing endless piles of “stuff” once again.

The mess usually develops slowly, one little piece at a time. We acquire a couple of cardboard boxes we don’t know what to do with, so we put them in the garage. Then, we repaint the porch and never quite get the painting supplies put away. A building project leaves a pile of wood scraps and sawdust behind. We’re too tired to run to Goodwill after we clean out the bedroom closet, so a couple of boxes of rummage are added to the growing mess. Bit by bit, a lot of little things begin to accumulate.


It’s rare when it’s just one big event that takes us from “doing good” to failure. More often than not, it’s a decline by degrees—a series of small things that move us further and further from where we want to be. It all begins when we start forgetting our priorities.

It happens with diets and resolutions, Bible study plans and house-cleaning. We may do awesome for a long while and then for whatever reason we stop paying attention and begin to slide. Not much at first, but every time we let it happen, we find ourselves further and further from our original intent.


It happens to our husband, too—especially in his recovery efforts. He’s been doing amazingly well for a long time, and then something like this happens . . .

• He has an extra busy week and decides he just doesn’t have time to call his accountability partner. He promises himself he’ll do it tomorrow.

• But, the next day he’s even busier so, unfortunately, there’s no time to call then, either.

• By the weekend he’s been burning the candle at both ends for days and he’s just too exhausted to get up for church. There’s a twinge of guilt, but he rationalizes that he deserves to sleep in after the week he’s had.

• He starts skipping meals and drinking more coffee, to try to find more time to get caught up. Instead of catching up, things start feeling more and more like they’re spinning out of control.

• He convinces himself that he can handle his growing stress level without telling anyone and, in doing so, starts keeping secrets from those who care about them.

The next thing he knows, voila!, he’s surprised and disappointed to find himself back acting out again. He’s ashamed of himself. How in the world did he get back there again, when he’d been doing so good? It was that dangerous decline by degrees. He didn’t even realize how far he had slidden.


It’s so important for us—whether we’re an addict or not— to learn to pay attention to those tiny baby backward steps. Left unchallenged, they will cause us to fail. They’ll lead us back to old unwanted thinking and habits—EVERY TIME.


“But they did not listen or pay attention, instead they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts, They went backward and not forward.” — Jeremiah 7:24 (NIV)


TODAY’S CHAT: Thinking back, can you remember a time in your life when you experienced a decline by degrees? You were doing well and moving toward your goal. Then, “all of a sudden” you found yourself returning to old habits and thinking. Can you recognize the priority you forgot that turned you back toward those old ways?




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