Failure IS an option

I’ve been taking some long walks with my son, Andrew, lately (long for this out-of-shape 40-something any way). We have some great conversations. He is well read and a real thinker. One of our main topics is leadership and living life in a real way. We both have a sense that attaining “success”, as defined by many these days, is not the life worth living. We both agree that the greatest work we can do is work that contributes to the lives of others.

Along with that conversation of success and achievement comes the idea of failure – and the fear thereof. To engage in any work or mission means taking a risk and one possible result is failure. No one wants to fail, but the truth is, to be successful failure has to be an option. It’s not an option we shoot for and not one we’re happy about, but, at the same time, it’s an option that doesn’t have to cause us great anxiety either. If we accept it as an option we can live with then we take away its power to hold us back. Recognizing the possibility gives you the opportunity to move past it when it happens.

I think about Jesus’ instructions to his followers when he sends them out into the villages. He tells them that they will have moments when things don’t go as they would hope – times when people don’t accept them or their message. Here’s what he says:

“Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” (Luke 9:4-5)

If he didn’t tell them upfront that failure was a possibility (and in a sense, name it as an “option”) they could easily have taken that rejection as a debilitating, mission-ending failure. Jesus tells them that the best thing to do is to move on.

That’s close to what Andrew and I have talked about. You have to be ready to face failure. You have to be ready for things to happen that OTHERS would see as a failure. But, you also have to realize that God is always at work where we let him work. God is there to take us into the next task, the next challenge. Failure is an option because failure is not the last word in life – God is.

It comes down to this – will you trust God and take a risk, or will you only trust your own imagination and nerve and play it safe? Will you confine yourself to living up to the generally accepted standards of this world, or will you explore new possibilities even when others would criticize your actions as foolish?

When failure is an option and God is at your side you can accomplish more than anyone would expect or even imagine. Question is, are you ready to fail?

Holy high-five to you,
Mike

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