Several days ago, I agreed to take on an editing job. In discussing the job with the client, I asked many questions, and I also made several assumptions.
I bid for what I thought would be 30-35 hours of work. It turned out that this job would require at least a hundred hours, and possibly many more. Since I had given a flat-rate bid, my hourly rate for the job went from normal-for-me to piddly--not even a decent fraction of minimum wage.
So I quit.
And I felt terrible about it.
Then the mental onslaught began.
You didn't keep your word.
You didn't stick it out when things got rough.
You took the easy way out.
You need the money--you should have just sucked it up.
You're a lousy contractor.
You're an unreliable editor.
(Oh, and the client, when I offered to send along the fruits of my already many hours of work in exchange for pro-rated pay, accused me of scamming. So--)
Your client thinks you're a cheat and a scammer.
Quitters are losers.
Want it spelled out? Foxtrot. Alpha. India. Lima. Uniform. Romeo. Echo.
Quitting doesn't sit well with me, not even a little. Quitting produces a magnifying glass that channels rays of truth and burns me. Quitting elicits a shockwave of realization and memory that knocks the breath out of me.
Once, when I was twelve years old, I jumped off a swing and landed on my back. I couldn't breathe for at least thirty seconds, maybe more. I was terrified. The pain mounted with every passing second. Worse, I was alone, without help, and without any means to summon help. I wondered if I was going to pass out. I wondered if I was about to die.
Quitting is like that. It's an admission of inability to do what I've said I can do. It's self-mutilation of the picture-perfect persona I've worked so hard to build and maintain.
It's an unfathomable crack in my impenetrable defenses, a loophole of vulnerability. It's the potential for destruction.
Quitting is the seed of weedy humiliation. How can I sink any lower than to go back on my word, to admit that I was wrong in my own self-expectation?
Is there anything worthy of redemption in a quitter?
I am forced to face my own genuine failings so infrequently that it's world-shifting when it happens. It's one thing to admit failing in a general way, as in Psalm 51, but to name and own particular failings is a much more daunting task. I don't want anyone to know that I'm not as awesome as I present myself to be. I don't want anyone to know that I fail. I don't want anyone to know that I'm not a model feminist. I don't want anyone to know that sometimes I'm a lousy parent or spouse or friend.
Because then I might be ordinary, right? Then I might require a reexamination of the awesome person I think I manage to be most of the time.
And that might change who I am. And if I change, then who am I?
Do you suppose this is why we describe God as immutable, unchanging, and sinless? Because we are so fearful of change and sin in ourselves, and so resentful of it in others?
What if God were more like humans? What if God were more like me?
What if bearing the divine spark within me meant accepting my failings without idolizing them, so that the awesomeness could shine through the muck?
What if quitting and failure are two sides of the same tool, designed to cut facets in us so we can capture light more brilliantly, like jewels?
What if failure is the only available path to discovering who I really am, as shone through God's marvelous light?