Re-defining Failure

I still do not speak Portuguese well, and recently, I realized that I tend to speak only when spoken to or if necessary. Knowing that this was a bad habit to get into, I decided to work at being brave and initiating conversations even when I knew it was very likely that I would make mistakes. I encountered one of these moments at the grocery store. Alyssa and I were standing in line with a cart full of items and a gentleman came to stand in line behind us who had only 3. Express lanes do not exist in the stores in our town.  Once before, I had invited a lady to go ahead of me in line; and had inadvertently offended her by the wording I had used; so, while I felt bad for the guy, I didn’t really want to take the risk. Regardless of my feelings, I decided to try. I began by telling him I didn’t speak Portuguese well, then I asked him if he’d like to go ahead of me. He smiled, agreed, and thanked me! Surprise!  Watching his face, I knew I had not used the right words, but, in the end, everything worked out for the best. Hooray, a success!
During checkout at the next store, I handed the clerk $70.74 for a $65.74 bill. She looked at it hard for about 10 seconds, then she put it in her drawer and began closing the drawer and reaching for the receipt. “Oh, no,” I thought, “she isn’t going to give me my 5 euros in change.”  Immediately, I panicked; what was I going to do? What should I say? I accidentally told her to wait in English, then switched to Portuguese and managed to let her know I believed I should be getting change. She showed me the receipt which indicated I had given her the exact amount of the bill. Now, I was so flustered, I switched back to English and got a little defensive. “No,” I insisted, “I gave you 70 euros and the change.” She thought it through for a couple of seconds and then gave me 5 euros.  As I left the store, I discovered that I was not happy with how things had turned out.  All of my attention had been focused on me. I hadn’t considered how what was happening had affected the clerk: because I got all upset, I had created a small scene and exposed her mistake to everyone in line. In the Portuguese culture, what I had done was very unkind.  When I got home, I told Andy that I viewed what had happened as a failure: getting the 5 euros had not been worth the cost.  Hopefully, we will continue to be sensitive to the true successes and failures we experience while we minister in Portugal.

2 comments
  1. It always amazes me how GOD uses the weak things of this world to confound the wise. Do your best and leave the rest up to HIM who knows and sees all. HE will bless you and use you no matter what. Satan wants you to feel like a failure, but we know we have the victory in Christ Jesus!! I am praying.
    And thank-you for the beautiful postcard from Portugal. That will go into my journal as a reminder. It is amazing how Rebecca’s profile looks so much like yours Mara!!! Keep pressing on. It is a priviledge to be in this ministry with you. I am so proud( I don’t know if that is the appropriate term to use.) of you and your family in this ministry. Thank-you for being transparent and letting me see you in your struggles. It helps me to pray more effectively. I find myself reacting the same way that you do in so many instances. Someday, we will be with HIM in a perfect body , in a perfect place. Till then, I’ll keep praying for you and please keep praying for me. ~K~

  2. What a great perspective, though, on true success and failure- it’s not about the outcome, but how we respond to the trial as we’re going through it – lots of great reminders from your blog today- I think my kids are napping extra long so I can read all of these posts that I need to hear!! 🙂

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