Failure. That's my name. I have always been, and always will be, a failure. There is no changing that.
When I was a kid I failed at school. I failed at dance class. I failed to do my chores. I failed as a sister, I failed as a daughter, but the biggest failure of all was my failure as a Christian.
At fifteen I got pregnant. My parents didn't even know I was dating. I went behind their backs and got an abortion, which made me feel miserable and ashamed. But I locked it all up inside and acted like I owned the world. People thought I was happy, but I wasn't. I was broken on the inside.
I lived with guilt for three years. And then everything on the outside began to fall apart. My big brother, Derrick, had a terrible car accident and lost the use of his legs. For two months he lay strapped to a hospital bed. I had never gotten along well with my brother but when that happened to him and he lay in such pain and misery something tore inside of me. I realized just how much I had missed, how much I had thrown away. Mom and Dad were divorced and both had left Derrick alone for the past few years. They didn't like what he was doing with his life, and really didn't appear to care that much about him. They didn't go see him at all while he was in the hospital. That left me to take care of him, along with a few of his friends from church.
I was willing but at first I was afraid. I was afraid that Derrick wouldn't want me around. I fumbled and mumbled every day, worrying about him and not understanding the new love and sympathy I felt for him until the evening of the fifth day. After his buddy had left Derrick looked me in the eye and said, "Rachel, why are you even here? I thought you hated me. I thought everyone hated me."
I broke down crying.
"I don't know. Something is happening inside of me...I don't understand it. I realized that I missed you, and that I missed being friends with you. I want to be around you, Derrick, and I want to be a real sister to you. Is it too late to try and start all over again with you?"
Derrick's broad shoulders shook with sobs as he said, "You don't know how much I've missed having a sister."
Then he opened his arms to me.
In the next few days I learned things about Derrick that I had never even thought about. Things like the fact that he doesn't like coffee but he does like vanilla chai lattes, and that his favorite color is navy blue. Or the fact that he likes to sleep with a beanie hat on. And that he doesn't like to wear a tie. And so many other things.
In return I told him about me. I even told him about my baby. He cried with me that day. We both knew that what I had done was wrong.
Then Derrick and I started to talk about God. We talked about the gospel of Christ, too. Derrick told me that he had wanted to be a pastor and that he was taking bible classes at a church near his school. This is what had made my parents angry. My dad was an atheist and my mom was a Buddhist.
I had lived my life believing in the back of my mind that God was real but that was about as far as it went with me. And then Derrick shared the gospel with me. It was so new and beautiful and wonderful. It seemed too good to be true. The thought that Jesus had been willing to take the wrath of God upon Himself in my place so that I could live with Him eternally blew my mind. I knew I didn't deserve it at all yet that made it twice as beautiful in my eyes. To be loved, to be wanted, to have been given undeserved grace by a merciful Christ was more than I could have imagined.
Derrick helped me to understand that doing good was not what would save me but that because I was saved I should do good to show love to the One that saved me. It cleared up so many questions that had puzzled my mind for a long time.
Every couple of days one of Derrick's friends from church would drop in for a few hours to visit, play games, and help in any way they could. I got to meet several of Derrick's best buddies. They were all such nice guys. They all had different personalities but each one of them had one common bond; their love for the Lord. Not a single visit passed that they didn't talk about Christ's love, and every visit was ended with a prayer.
In the two months that Derrick was at the hospital the nurses laughed at us and said that I was more like a girlfriend than a sister just because I kept bringing Derrick his favorite drinks and buying him treats and staying up until 2:00am chatting with him. They split their sides laughing when I threw a little kid style surprise birthday party for Derrick and invited a bunch of five to seven-year-olds from his church to come play games with him. I put a party hat on Derrick and we had the time of our lives. Derrick had told me about how much he loved playing with the little kids at his church, and how much he missed them now that he was in the hospital. He loved the party. He was really good with the kids and I learned on that day that he would make an awesome dad. It made me think about my own parents and wish that I had been a better daughter to them. Derrick and I talked about that and decided to pray together about the best way to go about fixing our relationships with them.
About a week before Derrick was released from the hospital we decided that we should give up our single apartments and rent a double together so that I could take care of him. He called some friends of his from church and they helped me pack out his apartment. He had scripture verses pinned to every wall, written on his bathroom mirror, written on the window in front of the kitchen sink, and scrawled on sticky-notes that he had taped to his laptop screen. He even had pictures of me and pictures of my parents stuck to his bedroom mirror. I carefully preserved every picture and scrap of paper that I found and put them in a shoebox. I didn't want to lose any future sermon notes or special keepsakes.
On one of the last days that we worked on packing out the apartment I was kneeling on the kitchen floor, sorting through Derrick's dishes. I thought I heard something behind me so I looked over my shoulder and then jumped and shrieked. The guys had apparently found a bunch of Derrick's paintball gear and decided to put on the masks and stuff to scare me. They were not disappointed because it worked. We all got a good laugh out of it together. Those guys were so much fun.
We got the apartment partially ready by the time Derrick was released and I invited all of Derrick's friends that had helped us move to come over and have a pizza night with us. The guys were a lot of fun but also knew how to be serious. I liked them all. We gathered in a circle to pray together before they all headed home. It was so new to me, yet so wonderful.
Our apartment was in a nice, quiet neighborhood where I could take Derrick on walks every morning. I took him to therapy three days a week and we began to see improvement in his legs. I got a job at Walmart restocking shelves at night so that I could be with Derrick during the day. We got one of his friends from from church to stay at our place during the night just in case Derrick needed anything.
On the one year anniversary of Derrick's accident he walked for the first time, leaning on my arm. We cried and thanked God for His mercy and for His healing. We knew that without God that would not have happened.
Derrick got a desk job at a big company nearby that payed well enough that I was able to quite my job and work from home. I dropped Derrick off at work every morning and then headed over to babysit a three-year-old little girl for a young single dad from Derrick's church. I babysit her every Monday through Friday. God provided that. It's been a blessing.
Now I live with the knowledge that in and of myself I am a failure, but in Christ I am victorious through His sacrifice and through His love. So now I stand a failure, yet victorious.
I wrote this right about when Arthur started his story. We both actually started writing for a contest over at Patrick Henry College. The subject for the contest is "Perseverance through failure" but Arthur and I both decided not to enter. Arthur because his story was too long, and me because I didn't want to pay $10 to possibly lose the rights to my story. :) I would have posted my story a while back but I kept writing essays and I wanted to share them. :) Feel free to share any thoughts/critiques! Here is a link to the contest (there is still plenty of time if any of you want to enter): http://www.phc.edu/acalltopens.php