Other than Girl Scout camping in cabins, I’ve been real-life camping only once.

We lived in California at the time, and a few friends invited us on a three-day camping trip somewhere in the San Bernardino mountains. We had five kids, ten and under, and no equipment. Folks lent us tents and other essentials to live three days away from the comforts of civilization.

That was the big miss for my husband. He loves civilization and all its essentials.

Like bathrooms.

It was a wonderful experience, except for my husband and my youngest. She wasn’t walking yet, so when we put her down on the dirt, she’d put whatever was close in her mouth. Rocks, grass, bugs. I was able to keep her from ingesting those things a few times, but all she ate was biodegradable and went right through her–into her diaper.

The dirt and the partial bug found there didn’t help.

Dirt happens. Mixed with a little water, it makes mud, wonderful for playing in and easy to ingest. Not healthy.

My daughter and her husband recently took their eighteen-month-old son on his first camping trip. Beck is a courageous little guy and has an adventuresome spirit. They’d been on numerous hikes as a family, and he’s learned to love the outdoors as much as his parents.

Setting up camp, however, made the outdoors home. Dirt became Beck’s best friend, and he sprawled in it, rolled in it, enjoyed it. His mom would try to keep his face and hands wiped off so he wouldn’t eat more dirt than needed. Putting him in the middle of a large blanket with a few toys didn’t dissuade him from finding more enjoyable distractions–all of the more natural sort. He knew enough not to eat dirt, but putting his grimy hands on his face and in his mouth gave the dirt access to his insides anyway.

Beck may be a little more prone to sprawl in the dirt, but I’ve had my share of falling down. Dirt on my face–maybe not the outdoor kind, but the stuff that failure is made of. I’ve made messes out of things I was trying hard to accomplish, being defeated miserably when my goal was to succeed. I was raised with the mantra “Try harder!”, but that doesn’t always work. Sometimes trying with more diligence and persistence covers me with more dirt. Failure.

So often, failure isn’t tolerated. Making a genuine mistake, not being able to produce what was hopefully promised, not finishing well often feels fatal. The chance to move forward, to pick myself up and brush myself off isn’t offered. Or honored. Failure can stain a reputation, a hope, a dream.

But God.

He alone knows my true limits and doesn’t expect from me what He understands can’t be given. And when I fail with Him–which I do consistently–He picks me up, brushes me off, and urges me to continue. To be bold and brave and not give up.

He never gives up on me.

Dirt will happen. I will fall, and I will fail. But I’m not defined by how I crash and burn.

I am who God says I am.

A victor in Him.

 

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