I suppose one might regard Thomas Edison as one of the world’s greatest failures. This man tried more than a thousand different light bulbs until he got it right. Have you ever failed at something a thousand times before you got it right? If you had, your name might be right up there with that of Thomas Edison.
Actually Edison didn’t think of these failed experiments as failures. He regarded them as steps in a long process. But late in his life something happened to Thomas that would have defeated a lesser man.
Thomas Edison’s son Charles, one-time governor of New Jersey, tells the story. On the night of December 9, 1914, Edison Industries was virtually destroyed by fire. Edison lost two million dollars that night and much of his life’s work went up in flames. He was insured for only $238,000, because the buildings had been made of concrete, at that time thought to be fireproof.
Charles was 24; Thomas was 67. The young man ran about frantically, trying to find his father. Finally he came upon him, standing near the fire, his face ruddy in the glow, his white hair blown by the December winds.
“My heart ached for him,” Charles Edison said. “He was 67 – no longer a young man – and everything was going up in flames. He spotted me. ‘Charles,’ he shouted, ‘where’s your mother?’ ‘I don’t know, Dad,’ I said. ‘Find her. Bring her here. She will never see anything like this again as long as she lives.’”
The next morning, walking about the charred embers of all his hopes and dreams, Thomas Edison said, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.”
Three weeks after the fire, his firm delivered the first phonograph.
“But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)