Tag Archives: failure

When one thing is wrong it means nothing is right

f grade questionI have never thought of myself as a perfectionist. I don’t think I am one to try to make everything the absolute best or nothing at all. I mostly think that we do our best and then move forward with what we’ve been able to do – hopefully giving our best as we go. And yet, I have come to realize something a bit disturbing about myself. I’m not sure how to label this (like everything must have a label, right?), but it’s definitely a thing.

For those who read my blog regularly, you know this is often my confessional. It’s a place where I am not afraid to explore my faults and failures – which is good because it gives me lots of raw material to work with! And that little clause right there is indicative or symptomatic of my problem. I see my faults and failures, at times, far too easily. And, I see my faults and failures more than any successes. And that’s a bit troubling to recognize.

So, am I a pessimist? A defeatist? An Eeyore?

Life is full of tasks and events and hopes and plans. Many times, if I look back at my day, there have been many things that went well. If I were to list all the things I did in one day or one week I bet I would be batting over .500 in terms of things that went off without a hitch or went well. My struggle is that I see the other side more than those successes. One thing can go wrong, one thing can be falling apart, and then in my mind, nothing is right.

I quite often view the whole of my life through the lens of my failures. Oh, I can put on a happy face and I can still do things that are good and successful, but I am mostly surprised by those things when I get into this place in my head. When one thing goes wrong, in my head it feels like nothing is right. And that’s not a good place to be.

So, why do I tell you this? Well, part of me just needs to say it “out loud” (yes, writing it in a blog post counts). Part of me also wants to work through – out loud – the other side of this. I use these posts to remind me of what is true as opposed to what I feel. And, with that, I hope others who feel similarly might also benefit.

So what is the truth? The truth is that life will have moments of good and bad, failure and success. The truth is you can’t count on your success to save your life and you don’t have to let your failures doom you to a dismal life. The “truth” that comes to my mind is in John’s gospel:

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 NIV)

Now, in fairness to the Apostle John, he is quoting Jesus as Jesus talks about real and significant persecution in the world. The kind many Christians in other countries face on a daily basis. But one thing I have learned about the Word of God is that God will declare a truth in one context which applies in others. So, while my trouble may be in my head, while my trouble may be my own faults, failures and inadequacies, the truth still holds – Jesus has the power to overcome that trouble.

The key for me is to remember that my identity is in Christ, not in what I accomplish or in what I fail to do well. I am neither a success nor a failure, I am a follower of Jesus Christ. My peace cannot be found in what I do well, and my anxiety is unnecessary in where I fail. I am close friends with the Lord of all a pluscreation, brother to the King of kings. That is not only enough, that is tremendous.

Bottom line – it means that everything is right even if it all goes wrong. That turns my world upside-down. And for that reminder I am thankful.

Hope that helps you in your daily walk through the world this week.

Holy high-five to you,
Mike

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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