Wiping Out: Failure and Redemption

Judi, Rob, and Elaine Matoushek. Pinning Ceremony. Honolulu. September, 2011.


I still remember a silly analogy I offered to my son-in-law once. And I blush when I do.

It was Christmastime and  my daughter Elaine was dating Rob. The whole family could tell that this was “the one”–that this relationship would endure. The kids weren’t officially engaged yet, but I saw it coming. We all did. 
Rob and Elaine had driven up to attend a Christmas pageant at our church. Later we gathered at our home for dessert. Rob, a Navy man, had recently learned that he had not been selected for promotion to chief. 
“Epic fail,” he said to me.

“Rob,” I said, hugging him. “You haven’t failed until you quit trying. You wiped out this time. So grab your board, paddle out, and wait for the next big wave.”

Rob doesn’t surf. I don’t surf. But the respectful young man nodded, instead of snickering. 

Not long ago Elaine called me in the midst of my work day. She and Rob are married now, and recently moved to Hawaii so Rob could take up his new duty station at Pearl Harbor. She doesn’t call me during my work hours unless something big is happening, so I hurried to answer the call.

“Rob made chief,” she sobbed.

I stood in the parking lot outside my office, cell phone pressed to my ear, and cried right along with her. 
I’m proud of my son-in-law. I’m proud that he’s chosen a life of service. I’m proud that he persisted in his quest to advance in his career. I’m proud that he kept seeking. 

The Chief and His Family. 

There’s a lesson for me in his persistence. Like a surfer, I’ve wiped out more than once in my walk with God, flailing along the face of a big wave of faithlessness, of sin. 
But I never drowned. And each time, when I finally stumbled, sputtering and humbled, to shore, God stood right there, waiting for me.
For me.

He’s waiting for you, too.

13 But as for me, my prayer is to You, O LORD, at an acceptable time;
O God, in the greatness of Your lovingkindness,
Answer me with Your saving truth.
14 Deliver me from the mire and do not let me sink;
May I be delivered from my foes and from the deep waters.
15 May the flood of water not overflow me
Nor the deep swallow me up,
Nor the pit shut its mouth on me.
Psalm 69:13-15 (NASB)


  1. “At an acceptable time.” That’s the part of the prayer I struggle with most.

    And how ’bout that son-in-law of yours? I love your mother-in-law pride!

  2. The great irony is that he made chief in Hawaii, with its surfers galore. Maybe your “silly” analogy was really just a form of ESP, and maybe he sensed it, which is why he didn’t snicker! He should become a surfin’ chief! Right?

    Congratulations to him and everyone who loves and believes in him. He’s blessed.

  3. Nancy,
    Yeah….that “acceptable time” part is tough!

    And…thanks! Ain’t he somethin’?

  4. Brandee,
    Heh! I never thought about that. His previous duty station was San Diego, our hometown,which also has its share o’ surfers.

  5. How exciting! Congratulations to Rob. I love the way you delight in your son-in-law and the rest of the family. 🙂


  6. What a wonderful post, Shelia…and what a wonderful mother-in-law you are.

    Congratulations to Rob. That’s quite an accomplishment.

  7. I got knocked down by the big kahuna wave…and nope, I didnt drown either. Great analogy

  8. Linda,
    Thanks. They’re a pretty delightful bunch, if I do say so myself.

  9. Patricia,
    Thanks. Awesome sons-in-law inspire their mother-in-law, you know?

  10. David,
    You too, hmmm? I reckon I’ll wipe out more than once more before my days here are over.

    Thanks for coming by.

  11. I thought for sure you were going to say he caught an epic wave there in Hawaii! Well, wait a minute, I guess he did :). Congrats to your son-in-law. He sure is blessed to have a MIL like you.

  12. Laura,
    Yeah, he did, didn’t he? I’m so proud of him. He’s a huge blessing to our family.