When We Fail
The penmanship of God’s Providence always points towards Heaven, so long as we collaborate with Him.
Welcome to The AdamoZone, a column by Luca Adamo, Vice President of Marketing and columnist at The American Postliberal! Published every Friday at 5:00pm EST.
Hello friends! For my first piece in The AdamoZone, I will tell you about something that just happened to me today, Thursday, November 23, 2023. I may be cutting it close to this column’s Friday deadline when the pilot piece I wrote two weeks ago would be perfectly fine. However, failing to write about today’s events would be to turn my nose at story months in the making, whose lesson I just grasped. Of course, any story about a protagonist learning a lesson requires said protagonist to act like a slime before God pulls them out of themselves.
So, that is what you will read in this piece: me acting like a slime. Needless to say, reliving and confessing my personal lowlight reel has me cringing. I just hope that my antics amuse you just as much as they surely amused God and edify you as much as they have edified me. I like to think that God watches us stumble, even in His sadness, with the cross-armed smile of a father watching his infant son tumbling to the floor and pouting as he learns to walk.
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I have been trying to get my driver’s license for over a year and a half. Last August, right before going off to college, I passed Ontario’s (yes, I am Canadian) required written test, meaning that I could take a road test in a year’s time. After I finished my freshman year, I came back home for the summer and took driving lessons from June until August. And because I had to wait exactly a year, I took my road test about a week before heading back to school. That test went very well…until I whizzed right past a stop sign.
Now, if there is any proof that man is fallen, and stays fallen in spite of having a relationship with Christ, it is this: I knew in my heart of hearts that this would be nothing but a funny story to tell later on, and that it, truly, was no big deal. As a practical matter, it is not as if I had an immediate need for a car on campus or otherwise. I never stopped knowing that; if you asked me how I should have been feeling, that is the answer I would have given you. However, that is not what I felt. As soon as the driving instructor informed me that blowing past a stop sign meant that I failed the driving test, my eyebrows crossed and I lost myself in a swirling, red shame.
The second the test instructor left the car, all the bad thoughts rushed through my head and so blackened my heart: that basically everybody has a driver’s licence (sure, but lots of people fail their driver’s test); my whole summer has gone to waste; (not true…even aside from the fact that I now knew how to actually drive, I had a lovely and productive summer); or that my prospects of meeting a nice girl were shot (maybe they were hurt a little bit, but it was nothing that just becoming a better person or approaching the situation with lightness and humility could not make up for — also, I do not even own a car)!
What is even more amusing is that many of these thoughts directly contradicted one another. How could the failure be both totally my fault and the result of an unfair test? The answer is that malevolent spirits, when coaxing us into sin, do not have the burden of making any sense. If anything, confusing you keeps your eyes darting within your own head instead of being set squarely on God, helping their cause of whittling you away.
And that is just what they did (as much as it pains me to write). In the days following that test failure, I became a markedly worse person, habitually committing sins that I thought I had left behind in my past. I cannot name a single fruit of the Spirit — charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity — that was not hurt in some way. That is because they, in all being of the same Spirit, are all different modes of the same thing, and therefore cannot exist without any of their fellow fruits. For what is joy without peace? Peace without chastity? Chastity without kindness?
It got to the point where I knew that I needed confession — and as somebody who is not especially inclined to scrupulosity, that was a big deal. On the theme of evil not needing to make sense, I recall feeling two completely contradictory feelings in the hours leading up to that confession. The first was one came around the time when I needed to start walking (remember: no license!) over to the nearest Church. I was greeted with a sense of tranquility, in complete opposition to the restlessness of heart which I had been feeling all week. “Maybe you don’t need confession”, I felt ring through my head.
Whichever amateur demon decided to blurt that out surely must have covered his mouth in regret, because he overplayed his hand hard. I specifically remember a smirk gliding across my face as I realized the tricks being played. By the Grace of God, I realized my mission and set off on my walk to Church. That demon must have been desperate, because as soon as my feet hit the sidewalk, a second feeling came: my heart began nervously beating, and random, scattered doubts began hitting me from all directions telling me to turn around. But I knew exactly what he was doing, so I kept walking.
Then I reached the Church. During confession, the priest reminded me of what I had known the whole time but had blinded myself to: that the shame was only able to enter through a hole left by pride. If I had not let my ego get in the way and had instead taken my innocent mistake on the chin with humble, self-effacing gentleness, then my spiritual downfall could have been avoided. I walked out of that booth forgiven, received our Lord, and had learned my lesson. Before engaging in anything which I am bad at, I should pray for a meek and humble heart, so as to view any harmless errors as God views them: as no big deal.
So, what does this story from the summer have to do with today, Thursday, November 23? Why did I only grasp the moral of this story today, when it very much feels like I learned my lesson after confession? It is because I had my second driver’s test today…and I failed again. The test, like last time, was perfect (I had the same examiner as last time, and those were his words)... right up until I merged in front of somebody who (albeit, moronically) tried to pass me.
The true moral of this entire story is to be found in how I reacted to this news: better than last time, but still poorly. I, thankfully, had gained new tools in prayer and perspective so as to not fall into an angry shame. After leaning my head against the steering wheel for a little while, I said a prayer and went home feeling blue, not red, which I certainly see as improvement. However, that blueness, paired with the exhaustion of a long, disappointing day, opened me up to sin by a whole new route. Less severe sin, but sin still; none of the fruits of the Spirit, again, have gone undamaged. If you are reading this, please pray for me! I’ll be heading to confession soon.
When we fail, it is not the end, for our Redeemer lives. God, in His love and mercy, causes good to emerge from our evils. The head-spinning cycle of “it’s so over” to “we’re so back” will be the rhythm of our lives, but that does not mean that the spiritual battle is a futile one. The penmanship of His Providence always points towards Heaven, so long as we collaborate with Him. God willing I have a long life, and can spend the rest of it growing in the habit of virtue, growing closer to God, and maybe, learning how to pass my driver’s test. I know that I will sin along the way. I also know that I will not always get what I want, but that is just a part of life. What God wants is always better — in retrospect, I wouldn’t have had my driver’s tests go any other way.
Surely I, having learned all these lessons, will pass the test next time…right?
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